When labour is near

During pregnancy you may experience painless, irregular contractions of the womb. These are not signs of the onset of labour. In late pregnancy, contractions may shorten the cervical canal and open the cervix slightly.
The very first signs of labour usually begin to appear a few weeks before the baby is born. Walking may be more difficult than before, feeling of weight in the pelvis and back pains may increase. Vaginal discharge increases and you need to urinate more frequently. You may also suffer from mild incontinence. The womb contracts easily. Premonitory contractions (irregular and usually painless) are common, particularly in the night. Mucous discharge from the cervix increases (so-called mucus plug). This may mean that you will go into labour in a few days.


Onset of labour

If your labour begins with contractions, it may sometimes be hard to tell when to go to the hospital. The general rule is that the contractions should come at regular intervals, become gradually stronger and have continued for at least two hours.  “Contractions coming at regular intervals” means that there is less than ten minutes between them.
However, births are very different, and therefore this general rule should not be taken literally. In particular, if you are having your first baby the onset may take several hours. Even though you are having contractions they are not yet opening the cervix. During this early stage it is quite safe and often more comfortable to be at home. On the other hand, if you are not a first-timer your labour may progress quickly – especially if you have had a quick labour before. In this case it is better to judge by your own feelings instead of the clock.  

At home with

During the early stage of labour it is quite safe and often more comfortable to be at home. It may take hours – sometimes days – before you reach the active stage. It is also possible that, after lasting for several hours, your contractions cease. That is a good opportunity for resting, eating and sleeping, because the contractions will probably come back very soon.
When the contractions begin, try to continue your daily routines as normally as possible. If it is night, try to go back to sleep or at least doze off between contractions. When the contractions become stronger and require more attention, you may try a warm compress or grain bag for pain relief. Put them where the pain is: your back or lower abdomen. Massaging the lower back may also make you feel better.
Listen to your body and try to find the position that is best for you during contractions. Many mothers instinctively lean forward against a table or window sill, for example. In this position you can sway your hips during contractions. You may also find it comfortable to be on all fours, supported by pillows. If it is night try to find a position in which you can doze off between contractions.
A warm shower or bath help to relax and can make you feel better. Stay in the shower for at least 20 minutes so that there is really time for the water to work. During contractions you can direct the pressure of water to the places where the pain is strongest.

In active labour
– time to go to the hospital

It is time to go to the hospital, when:
  • there are less than five minutes between contractions
  • the contractions are so intense that you must fully concentrate on them and you cannot talk during them
  • even between contractions, the mother seems to be in a world of her own – she does not want to talk or do anything else
  • it no longer feels comfortable to be at home 


When you no longer can make yourself comfortable at home or being at home does not feel like a good idea any more, call the delivery ward.
The midwife evaluates your situation and gives instructions.