Early Signs of Labour


Am I in labour? The first stage of labour can last for hours, so remember not to panic when you begin to spot pre-labour signs. Women are expected to have irregular contractions in the early stage, but when these become more regular and there is a pattern, this is usually when the mum-to-be is asked to attend triage. Of course, this really depends on the woman, but you could be contracting for a little while before you are admitted to your triaging unit. Early labour symptoms may include any combination of the following1:

  • A show - the plug of mucus that has been sealing your cervix comes away
  • Your waters breaking
  • Contractions:
  • backache
  • Feeling like you need to go to the toilet (due to baby’s head is pressing on your bowel)
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Going into labour

As soon as you think you're experiencing the first signs of labour, get in contact with your midwife or the hospital. They’ll want to know the timings of your contractions and any other symptoms. Remember, if your waters have broken, you should always call them straight away. They’ll advise you on the signs of labour starting and when you should go into hospital.

Signs of slow labour

No two women are the same. Some have a fast labour, others have a slow labour. But if things slow down too much during labour, it may be necessary to speed them up a bit.

Different hospitals have different definitions of ‘slow labour’, but the main way to spot the signs of slow labour is to measure the rate at which your cervix dilates. If this is less than 0.5cm per hour over a four-hour period, Mother Nature might need a helping hand.

Don’t worry. Your midwife knows all about slow labour signs and will regularly check how you’re getting on. If she detects slow labour symptoms, she’ll talk to you and your doctor before deciding the best way forward for you and your baby.

  1. National Health Service (NHS). Signs that labour has begun [online] 2020. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/pregnancy/labour-and-birth/signs-of-labour/signs-that-labour-has-begun/ [Accessed January 2022]

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