For some women labour can be quick, but for most women early labour involves a ‘latent phase’, which can last from quite a few hours to several days before active labour and the birth of your baby.
What is Early Labour?
The early, or ‘Latent phase’, of labour is the stage that no-one really prepares you for. It’s that stage that tells you that your labour is starting. For some women the ‘stage’ can take a while, where your contractions start and then stop over a few days, or the contractions never really get close together, certainly not in the time that you expected.
How Long Can Latent Labour Last?
The contractions or surges may be irregular and often sporadic as they work to prepare your body to labour and birth your baby.
How to Cope during Labour
Labour and birth rarely follow a set pattern and as every pregnant woman is unique, she will have her own individual way of labouring and coping with labour.
Coping strategies can often be invaluable if you experience a long latent phase, as they help to empower you and birth partners through an often difficult and tiring stage of labour.
Staying at home in your own comfortable and relaxed environment will enable your oxytocin hormone (contraction hormone) levels to increase. This also ensures that you are in charge of what and when you eat and drink, and who is in your birthing space.
Being active and upright during labour is often talked about but there must also be an emphasis on rest. The body cannot work effectively during labour if it is tired and depleted. Remember, you’ve spent many days building up your glucose reserves so only move if you feel you want or need to. Resting will not be in the form of a long sleep but short catnaps.
A few ideas to help you prepare for labour
- Resting- it is important to recharge your batteries, no matter how short the rest or nap is.
- Nesting- if it means using all the cushions and pillows in the house to get comfortable, do it! Build yourself a safe and comfortable nest.
- Massage- birth partners and doulas are essential for providing massage and pressure for you. Our Fantastic Skin Elastic is ideal to use for massage in pregnancy, to soothe and reduce discomfort.
- Aromatherapy- research this before labour so you know which oils are useful, but also which ones you like. All of our My Expert Midwife products contain 100% natural ingredients. Made with soothing lavender oil, our hero product Spritz for Bits can be used before birth to help calm and relax you during labour. Also, infused with avocado, grapeseed and sweet almond oil, our Peri Prep Your Bits smells divine and improves skin elasticity and suppleness, as well as moisturises the area ready for baby’s arrival.
- Food and drink- your body needs to be in tip top condition for labour, so fuel it well; coconut water, energy drinks, carbohydrate gel packs, glucose sweets are ideal for keeping your energy levels up.
- TENS- this is electrical pulses via pads on your back and is available from some maternity units or from chemists to buy or rent.
- Water- baths and showers should not be underestimated for their powers to help with relaxation.
- Heat packs- your hot water bottle or wheat pack may just become your new best friend during this time.
- Birth affirmations- make your own or look online for inspiration.
- Positive mental attitude- it’s true, it really is mind over matter in labour.
- Language- if it’s soft tones and positive reinforcements, or certain words such as ‘pain’ you would prefer not to hear, inform your birth partner of how you would like them to communicate with you during early labour.
- Feelings- This is your labour. It’s ok to be excited and happy. It is equally ok to be tired and emotional.