Tips for Managing Early Labor: Before Active Labor Starts

Use board games to distract the expectant mom when she's in early labor. Image by johnnyberg

Use board games to distract the expectant mom when she’s in early labor. Image by johnnyberg

Women aren’t considered to be “in labor” (meaning active labor) until they’ve dilated to 4 cm. Before that point, there is little reason to leave for a birthing center or hospital, or have the midwife present. Early first stage labor can last for several hours – this may sound scary until you remember that early labor contractions are usually very mild and spaced further apart.

Much of early labor is helping the mother to stay well-fed and well-rested, and helping to prevent boredom and frustration while waiting for active labor to begin. The father, partner, doula, or friend can help with distracting the mother, and often the best course of action is to continue with a normal routine for as long as you feel comfortable.

What to Do During Early Labor

Unless you have reason to suspect a fast labor, the ACOG recommendation is that mothers in early labor remain at home. The ACOG Education Pamphlet “You and Your Baby” states, “While you wait at home, rest if you can. Some women may find it more comfortable to walk around or to take a shower or warm bath.

Here are some other suggestions for distracting an expectant mother during early labor:

  • Eat and drink to stay well hydrated.
  • Watch a funny movie. Often keeping her mind focused on something else will allow the baby to get into a good position before active labor begins.
  • Encourage her to empty her bladder. A full bladder will cause more discomfort during the contractions.
  • Go for a walk.
  • Put together a puzzle.
  • Play cards or a board game.
  • Clean up that one last area of the house that has been bugging you.
  • Take one last belly picture.
  • Make sure you’ve packed everything you need to pack if you will be leaving home for the birth.
  • Get out of the house! Sometimes a change of scenery is relaxing. Just don’t go too far from home in case the mother-to-be wants to come home and rest.

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