Early Labour

Early labour is the initial phase that can last hours, days, or even weeks, in the event of prodromal labour.  This early stage of labor can be difficult for a first-time mother to detect.  It is characterized by excitement and for some women, the nesting instinct with the urge to clean and prepare for the new baby.  In this phase it's important to stay active.  Try not to dwell on each contraction and refrain from even timing them if they are easily ignored and do not interfere with your daily routine.  Simply acknowledge them and move on with typical activities.  One of the best tips for natural childbirth in a hospital is to stay home as long as possible.

Early labor is usually the most fun and exciting. You may wonder if this is really "it". Other women sleep through these light contractions or go about their day without really noticing a difference.


  • Manageable Contractions
  • Low Backache
  • Loose Stools
  • Bloody show or increased mucus discharge (mucus plug)
  • Lightening (the baby dropping into position)


  • Excitement
  • Energy
  • Anticipation
  • Nervousness


  • Nesting Instinct
  • Increased Energy
  • Restlessness


You really probably won't need to pull many tricks out of your bag at this stage of early labour. The best advice is to ignore the contractions as long as you can.  Just conduct business as usual.  The principle of a "watched pot never boils" applies here.  The more attention you draw to the process, the more anxious you can become if it doesn't seem to move as quickly as you'd expected.

General tips include regular breathing and activity as tolerated.  You might want to take a nap or have something light to eat.  You most likely want to avoid getting into a birthing tub at this point since full immersion can lower the oxytocin levels in your body and slow your birthing which is not desirable at this stage.


  • Take a Walk
  • Finish Packing Your Bags
  • Take Some Last Pregnancy Photos
  • Play Cards
  • Go to the Movies
  • Rent a Video
  • Have a Date Night and Go to Dinner


  • Keep Her Company, if She Prefers it
  • Encourage Her to Move Around
  • Massage Her Back or Feet to Promote Relaxation
  • Time Some Contractions
  • Praise Her
  • See if There are Any Last Minute Chores to Finish

It's important during early labour to make sure an effective birthing pattern has started.  Too much stress and anxiety over this phase can prolong your labor or make it less productive as stress hormones can interfere with cervical dilation and effacement.  Try to stay in the moment rather than worrying about what lies ahead.  Relaxation is key throughout all the stages of labor.

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Page Last Modified by Catherine Beier, MS, CBE

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