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Signs of Labour

11th Apr 2016

The Show

This is the plug of jelly-like mucous in the cervix. It has helped seal the womb in pregnancy. Often it will be blood stained. Take no action as labour may still be days ahead, or it could mean the beginning of labour.


Mild, painless contractions occur during late pregnancy. These are called Braxton Hicks. When they become stronger as the date of the baby’s birth approaches or you are overdue, they may originate in your back and give slight backache, or you may get period-like pain in the front of your stomach. Early contractions of this type are irregular in strength and length. They often come in short bursts lasting a couple of hours with contractions about every 10 minutes. Pain could be irregular initially. This phase could last for 24 hours before you go into labour. They do not often last for more than 30-40 seconds each. At this time your baby’s head is probably descending further into your pelvis and your cervix is softening, but true labour has not begun.


Contractions in early labour are different. They are regular in strength and length, last more than 40 seconds each and steadily increase in strength and length as labour progresses. The distance between contractions shortens and so they become more intense.

In early labour at home, you should keep active, change position frequently and relax in a bath or shower if possible. You should eat a light meal and have someone with you to keep you company. Staying at home for as long as possible is desirable, but the labour ward can be telephoned for advice at any time. When the contractions are strong and regular and coming at 5 minute intervals, or less in women expecting their first babies, and lasting 60 seconds or more, you should consider moving to hospital. The labour ward or birth centre should be contacted so that they know when you will be arriving.


The Water Breaking

The bag of water in which the baby is contained may break before the contractions start or during labour. You may notice a slow trickle or a sudden gush of fluid from your vagina that you are unable to control. This fluid does not smell like urine and is clear. Just keep a note of the time, if this happens, so you can tell your hospital midwife.

You may also have these additional signs:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Backache
  • Diarrhoea or frequent bowel motions


At your first signs of labour Kensington Midwives will be alerted and able to meet you at the Birth Centre or Hospital when you arrive. We encourage all our mothers to labour at home for as long as possible, you will be well prepared to do this following our antenatal appointments and other classes you may have joined. You will be able to stay calm, brave and confident knowing that once you arrive at hospital we will be with you until your baby is born.



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