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Early labour is often called the latent phase and is your body’s way of preparing for the arrival of your baby. During the latent phase of labour the opening of the womb (cervix) begins to shorten and soften (effacement), this is an important process before your cervix starts to open or dilate.

It is normal for the early stage of labour to last for a few days, especially with your first baby. It is important that you stay active and well hydrated during this time. You may need to start using some of the methods of breathing and relaxation as your contractions become more regular.

Signs that labour has begun

There are several signs that labour might be starting, including:

  • contractions or tightening’s
  • a “show”, when the plug of mucus from your cervix (entrance to your womb) comes away, this is often clear and sticky.
  • backache
  • an urge to go to the toilet, which is caused by your baby’s head pressing on your bowel
  • your waters breaking (rupture of membranes)- the water should be clear or straw-like in colour.

During the latent phase it is best for you to stay at home in the comfort of your own surroundings, this way you are more likely to find ways to keep yourself comfortable and active. It may be useful for you to contact the maternity department for advice.

When to call a midwife

You should call a midwife when your contractions become regular and more intense or if you need some advice whilst at home. However you should call a midwife if you experience any of the following;

  • Reduced fetal movements
  • Your waters break
  • Bleeding
  • If you have attended for early labour assessment and are suitable to return home, please keep in contact with the maternity triage by calling every 4 hours or as advised by a midwife.

There is a midwife available 24/7 for labour advice on Maternity Triage, please do not hesitate to call on 01892 633500.

If you are planning to birth at Maidstone or Crowborough Birth Centre please phone:

Maidstone Birth Centre – 01622 220160 / 1

Crowborough Birth Centre – 01892 654080


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