Self-help in the early stages of labour

The early stages of labour can often take a few days. Whether you’re at home or within the hospital, here are some simple ideas for self-help:

  • Keep moving. Try a variety of positions as this can make a surprising difference to how you feel. ‘Up, forward and over’ positions are very popular – this is where you put your bump forwards, like kneeling and all fours (as opposed to slouching on the sofa). Some people enjoy sitting on a birthing ball or prefer walking around. Sometimes discomfort comes from the baby lying in an awkward way, so these movements can encourage your baby to shuffle into a more comfortable position.
  • Distraction is a very effective pain management strategy. Carry on with your day as normal. Go for the walk you were planning. Go shopping if you can. Although it might be tempting to use an App that ‘times’ your tightenings – your baby will not arrive any quicker and looking at an App can lead to you becoming focussed on your discomfort.
  • Put on your favourite music or film. Music and films that make you laugh or feel good are good options - the release of oxytocin (your love hormone) and endorphins (your happy hormones) are natural pain killers!
  • Keep your energy levels up. It might take a few days to give birth to your baby so keep your energy levels up by eating healthy snacks and foods. If you feel nauseous, try more bland starchy foods (pasta, toast or rice). If you’re vomiting and unable to eat - contact the maternity unit for support to help relieve this. If you visit the hospital in the early stages of labour, the midwife will check everything is as it should be and then might offer you some stronger pain relief medication or a TENS
  • Stay hydrated - drink plenty of water.
  • Make frequent visits to the toilet. Try to pass urine at least every 4 hours. A full bladder can slow down the first phase of labour by blocking your pelvis – so try to keep your bladder empty!
  • Take a warm bath to relax your muscles. Make sure it’s warm, yet not too hot, and that you keep drinking lots of water.
  • Taking 1g of paracetamol every 6 hours can make a real difference. Think about all the times paracetamol has helped relieve a headache or period pains. Paracetamol is safe for you and the baby as long as you follow the instructions.
  • Sleep whenever you can. Remember to lie on your left side if you can.

Remember that if the cramps are getting more intense or more frequent, this is a good thing!