Early Labor Signs: How Do You Know When You’ve Started Early First Stage Labor?

Our Son - Labor and Delivery - Early Labor

Early Labor is not so tough – you may feel more comfortable at home during this stage – Image by Philip J Beyer

The beginning of the childbirth process is early labor; many women feel more comfortable at home by themselves during this stage. Early first stage labor can be one of the longest phases, but thankfully, it is also one of the easiest stages of labor to manage. For most women, contractions are minor inconveniences: Barely noticeable and very in-control.

How do you know if you’re in early (also known as latent) labor? Signs can be as obvious as physical signals of progression and as complex as feelings of distress or worry as your body starts changing in anticipation of childbirth.

Physical Signs of Early Labor

A woman in latent labor may have some bloody show or loose her mucus plug, as her cervix is dilating from 0 to 4 cm. The cervix also needs to efface, or thin out, and move from a posterior position in the back of the body, to an anterior position in the front of the body.

Most of this preparation work takes place before the cervix begins dilating and women should not think that just because the dilation isn’t going quickly that nothing is happening! Not only is the mother’s body and cervix preparing for the harder work ahead, but these early, light contractions help the baby get ready for the birthing process, and move into a good position.

In a mother who has given birth before, also known as a multipara, the baby might not even be engaged or “dropped” when the labor begins. This is another important part of having a baby that can happen at home.

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Emotional Signs of Early Labor

When a mother realizes that her contractions are no longer pre-labor contractions, but are getting stronger and more regular, she often feels very excited. After all these months of waiting, she’s finally having that baby!

She may also feel apprehensive or nervous about becoming a mother or adding to her family, – and about the labor process to come. Some women feel worried, nervous or upset, so their partners can help them cope by distracting them and keeping them focused on the positive things to come.

Before Active Labor Starts

When you’re still in early labor, you’ll be less physically uncomfortable – there’s no need to rush to the hospital until you have progressed further unless your water has broken, or there are other indications that you need to get checked out. Latent labor can last for a long time so if you can eat, drink and finish up little things around the house, so much the better. It won’t be too long before you’re in active labor though, and that’s when the real work begins – so rest up if you can!

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  1. Jace Shoemaker-Galloway says:

    Great information! Thanks for sharing!

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