Coping with early labour

Listen to your body. Experiment with different movements and do what’s most helpful for you. Your midwife will encourage you to find a position that suits you – everyone is different.

As you feel a contraction coming: Relax. Think especially about your shoulders, your face, your hands. Make sure they are all relaxed.

Start to concentrate on your breathing, keeping it slow and relaxed. Focus on breathing out.

As the contraction gets stronger, think more carefully about the way you breathe and try to stay relaxed.

Sway and rock your pelvis; make any noises you find helpful.

Don’t resist the contraction – it increases in intensity, it reaches its height, it starts to fade.

As it goes, blow it away. It’s gone. That contraction will never appear again, and it’s one less on your journey.

Positions in the first stage

Most women cope best with labour if they are not restricted in their movements. You may find different positions – supported standing, kneeling, sitting (either astride a chair or on a birthing ball), or anything else that helps – work best for you at different times.

Kneeling: you can rest by leaning forward between contractions.

Sitting: you can sit astride a chair and lean forward, rest on a cushion or pillow, or on a birthing ball or beanbag.

Birthing balls: you may find a birthing ball comfortable – this is a large inflatable ball which is used in some gyms. It allows you to rotate your pelvis and means you are sitting at a good angle for childbirth with your pelvis above your knees.

Supported standing or squatting: this allows your pelvis to open wide, and your baby to be born with the help of gravity. You will need support for your upper body to keep your balance. Your partner can support you by holding you from behind, under your arms, though they will need strength to take all your weight. Your knees must never be higher than your hips – this would put too much strain on your joints.

There’s no right or wrong position. However, lying on your back is usually uncomfortable and makes it more difficult to get your baby through your pelvis, so it is not recommended. When women are encouraged to do what feels best for them, they hardly ever adopt this position.

Birthing partners

If you attended antenatal classes with your partner, now is the time to use what you learned. Whenever possible help your partner to relax and stay focused.

Lower back massage can help relieve the backache that comes during labour. Just being there to share the pain as well as the joy is important too.

You can also help your partner through the contractions by breathing with her.

Last Updated: 14 October 2009
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