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Signs of going into labour

If you think you're in labour and you're not sure what to do, contact the maternity unit or your midwife about your symptoms.

Signs that labour has begun

There are several signs that labour has begun, including:


When your contractions last for at least 60 seconds and come every 5 minutes, it's time to call your midwife or hospital.

During a contraction, the muscles tighten and the pain increases.

If you put your hand on your abdomen, you'll feel it getting harder; when the muscles relax, the pain fades and you will feel the hardness ease.

As your labour progresses, contractions get longer, stronger and more frequent.

The "show"

You may see a sticky blob of mucus in your pants, which might be yellow or bloody - this is called the “show".

This plug used to seal up your cervix and when it comes undone, this can be one of the first signs of labour.

Labour may quickly follow or may take a few days. Sometimes there is no show.

Your waters break

Don't expect a massive gush like you see in films – it could just be a little pop and a trickle.

The liquid should be clear. If it drips, then use a pad, not a tampon.

Contact your midwife or doctor immediately if it's smelly or coloured.

Back pain

This is caused by your baby's head on your spine.

When their head meets your sacrum (tailbone) it can be quite uncomfortable.

Needing the toilet

This is caused by your baby's head pressing on your bladder or bowels.

You may find that you wee or poo yourself. It's very common, so don’t be embarrassed.

When to call your midwife

Call your midwife or maternity unit if you are worried something is wrong, or:

  • your waters break
  • you have vaginal bleeding
  • your baby is moving less than usual
  • you're less than 37 weeks pregnant and think you might be in labour

Tips for early labour

Try these tips to ease you through the early stage of labour:

  • sleep or rest when you need to, the more energy you have for your labour the better
  • if you feel like moving around, have a gentle walk outside or around the house
  • have a warm bath or shower – warm water can help ease the pain of contractions
  • practise your breathing techniques - deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth
  • keep up your energy levels up with healthy snacks

Above all, listen to your body and do what feels right for you.

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