Preparing for labour and birth

Arrange the support of a birth partner

Choose a supportive birth partner who can be with you throughout your labour; you may want to choose more than one person. They should be someone you are totally relaxed and comfortable with, and who will encourage and reassure you. So that your birth partner is able to support you to the best of their ability, it is important for them to take regular breaks. Having more than one can ensure that someone you know is with you all of the time.

Birth partners can also help with things such as:

  • Back massage
  • Keeping you active
  • Getting you snacks and drinks
  • Praising and encouraging you

Be well informed

Gather as much information as you can. Many women fear the ‘pain’ of labour which can cause anxiety, tension and uses up valuable energy which can make labour more painful and exhausting. If you take a few moments to think about why it hurts to have a baby, you may feel more relaxed about it.

Your womb or uterus is a large muscle that has to work really hard to open up the cervix or neck of the womb.  Labour is hard work and usually takes many hours from the first signs of starting up until the baby is born. The ‘tightenings’ or ‘period’ like pains experienced during the last few weeks of pregnancy help to soften the cervix. As labour becomes established, the tightenings become stronger and last longer. These help to dilate the cervix and help the baby get into position for the birth.

Writing a birth plan

You may find it helpful to create a birth plan in advance, to help your midwife see what is important to you - it can be difficult to explain what is particularly important to you between contractions! You will find a birth plan template ready for you to complete in your maternity notes. Keep an open mind, as sometimes you might choose to do things differently or problems may occur which may alter your original plans.

Please also use the 'Mum & Baby' app to create your personal plan.

Hiring a TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation)

TENS is a natural way of encouraging your body to produce its own painkillers called endorphins and interrupts the pain pathways from your womb to your brain. It has a small control box which connects to four pads positioned either side of the spine. TENS is best used in early labour – usually whilst you are at home. They can be hired from a chemist.

Important contact numbers

Keep a list of important numbers in your handbag or near the phone. Include your hospital or midwife, your partner or birth companion, and your own hospital reference number available for when you contact us.  


Work out how you'll get to the hospital as you could be arriving at any time of the day or night. If you’re planning to make your journey by car, make sure it’s running well and that there’s always enough petrol in the tank. Please don’t call an ambulance unless there is an emergency!

How can I help myself in early labour? »


You can help your labour to carry on smoothly by avoiding stimulating the ‘rational’ part of your brain. You need peace, quiet and a feeling of safety to help you relax and so increase the levels of your own natural pain relievers – ‘endorphins’, as well as oxytocin (the hormone which stimulates contractions).  During labour, simple measures such as having privacy, quiet, being in a room with subdued lighting and feeling safe will allow your ‘rational’ brain to be less stimulated and can allow your body to help you to begin your labour. Listening to music you have chosen can also help.

Relaxation does not just mean relaxed muscles, but also having a calm mind and feeling confident that birth is a natural process that your body is strong enough to cope with. When your contractions become more painful, just closing your eyes and relaxing between them can help you rest and give you energy.

It is not possible to predict when active labour will begin. It could start within a couple of hours of the latent phase commencing, or in several days. So try to stay as relaxed as you can and distract yourself from focussing only on the contractions. 

Early labour advice

  • Stay calm
  • Move around and get into a comfortable position
  • Focus on something else; listen to music, for example
  • Try warm baths in a dimmed room
  • Eat and drink regularly to give you energy
  • Take simple pain killers such as paracetamol four-hourly (no more than eight in 24 hours)
  • Relax and close your eyes between contractions

Remember: Stay at home for as long as possible

If you are unsure whether your labour has started, chances are it hasn’t!  You can telephone Triage for advice 24 hours a day (01895 279054). Depending on your situation, you may be advised to stay at home or come in for a check-up. Don’t be too disappointed if we recommend that you go home again if your labour isn’t completely established.  Home is the best place to be in early labour.

We don’t want you to struggle alone at home.  We are happy to offer advice and support over the telephone.  However, you should ALWAYS call if any of the following happens:

  • You haven’t felt the baby move as much as usual
  • You have any fresh red blood loss
  • You think your waters have broken
  • You are having strong, regular, painful contractions at least every five minutes apart which are lasting about a minute
  • You are worried