This leaflet has been written to help you and your partner understand what is happening to you in the early/latent phase of labour, with advice about how to cope during this period of time.
Every woman’s experience of early labour is different. Early labour (the latent phase) prepares the womb (uterus), neck of the womb (cervix) and baby for birth.
Before labour starts, the neck of the womb (the cervix) is long, firm and closed.
During the early / latent phase of labour the neck of your womb is softening, thinning and drawing up.
During this stage you may:
The duration of the early / latent phase is not predictable. It can last several days, and may happen weeks before active labour starts. In the latent phase contractions can start and stop. This is normal. Contractions may continue for several hours but not become longer and stronger. This is normal too.
Remember that the latent phase can last a long time, especially for first time mums.
Try and stay as relaxed as you can and try not to think about every contraction.
You may find it helpful to:
You could try:
It is important to eat and drink normally during early/latent phase of labour to keep your strength and energy levels high. Eating little and often can be helpful.
Complex carbohydrates (eg bananas, pasta, baked beans, potato) are especially good as they will provide you with plenty of energy reserves.
Make sure you drink plenty of fluids, especially water, juices and sports drinks.
Remember to go to the toilet to empty your bladder regularly.
Other helpful tips for latent phase:
Get in touch with your Labour Ward/Birth Centre:
Phone the Birth Centre or Labour Ward immediately if:
When you contact the Birth Centre or Labour Ward in early labour, you may be advised to continue self care in early stages of labour or you may be advised to come in for assessment.
The assessment will include:
Following the assessment a plan of care will be made with you.
Sometimes if labour is still in the early stages it may be recommended that you return home to await more established labour. If this happens you will be advised to contact the Birth Centre or Labour Ward at any time for further advice or when you feel you wish to return. For some women, it may be appropriate to remain in hospital on the antenatal ward to wait for labour to establish.
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