Going into labour
After months of waiting, planning and preparing for your baby, the day will finally arrive. When and however you give birth, you will find it an unforgettable experience.
Understanding what will happen during the birth, understanding pain relief options and planning your labour will all help you feel ready.
How will I know when I am in labour?
Labour is different for every woman and every birth and it can start so slowly that you may not be sure that this is the real thing. Typical signs that you are in labour include:
- contractions that last more than 40 seconds and get stronger over time
- three contractions every ten minutes over two or three hours
- your waters have broken – you feel a gush or trickle of liquid.
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While inside, the baby is inside a bag of liquid, called amniotic fluid. Part of the birth process is the breaking of the amniotic sac, letting the fluid out. You'll hear this called the 'waters breaking'.
In most cases this will happen during labour, but sometimes waters break before labour starts. It’s a sign that labour will start shortly!
If your waters break before labour contractions begin, phone your hospital or midwife. The midwife will probably ask you some questions about what the water is like and what else has been happening. They may want to see you for a check up. If the waters are either smelly or coloured (other than pinkish) be sure to say it. You will need to go the hospital straight away as this could be a sign that your baby is in distress and needs attention.
If your waters are clear, you’ll probably be able to go home when you have been checked and given a time for labour to be induced if it doesn’t start naturally within 24–36 hours. In most cases it will start naturally.
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Labour has started – what next?
Don't leap into the car just yet! The stories you hear of babies arriving in the back of a taxi or on the living room floor are the exception rather than the rule. You will be more comfortable at home, so ring the labour ward or birth centre for advice about when to set off. If you’re having a home birth, let your midwife know that you think labour has started.
What to do
- Phone your planned birth partner/s to let them know
- time and write down the timings of contractions
- if you have other children, let your babysitter know!
- check that you have everything you need – hospital and baby bag, car keys or taxi number (and money to pay for the taxi)
- make sure you keep your notes with you
- try to relax!
Call your midwife immediately if:
- you are losing blood
- the pain becomes more severe
- you have a severe headache
- you have any other worries.
Find out more in our frequently asked questions about birth and pain relief.
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In this section
Diet and nutrition
Managing your weight
Healthy working pregnancy
Labour and birth