By the end of your pregnancy, your uterus will be the largest network of muscles in your body. To give birth these muscles have to work hard, and like any muscle that needs to works hard, such as when you run, it hurts.
During labour, your cervix needs to go from closed to fully dilated. This can take hours or days and your labour will have its own unique pace and, as your contractions intensify, you will experience some pain because your uterus is working hard. But it is also important to remember that in between your contractions you won’t experience any sensations, discomfort and pain. So for every contraction, you will experience some rest.
This can be the exciting phase when it’s all beginning and the contractions may be up to 30-40 seconds long.
What to do: Try not to rush into birthmode – save that focus until your contractions are really demanding your attention, instead carry on as normal so you are distracted. Rest and relax as you need to and get to know your body as it changes and contracts and labour unfolds.
Birth Partner: Be with her if she needs you, otherwise give her some space. Make her some food and keep her distracted as her labour unfolds.
This is the more serious stage, when the contractions are doing a lot of work and your body is working hard.
The contractions are about 45-60seconds long and may be about 3-5mins apart.
What to do: Feel free to move, rock, sway, to do what your body needs to do to work with your contractions. You may need to rest and sit in between your contractions.
Your needs may constantly change, so go with it, listen to your body
Birth Partner: Match her mood – try not to be too chatty and jokey if she is quiet and focused, be near and ready to be with her when she needs you for physical and emotional support. If you feel overwhelmed, focus on your breathing to stay calm and take a break for a few minutes.
Self doubt and a mixture of emotions can creep in now, as your cervix heads towards being fully dilated. The contractions could now be 60-90seconds long, with a break of a minute or two in-between.
Labour can now feel intense and overpowering and your body could well show all the signs of how hard it is working as you may be hot, shaky and feeling nauseous.
What to do: Go with it, relax, stay calm and allow your contractions to do what they need to do. Rather than fear your contractions, welcome them – your contractions are part of you, they are working within you to bring you your baby.
Birth Partner: Use words of encouragement, and lots of them, to help her stay focused and to believe in her ability to work with her contractions. Remind her that she will be meeting her baby soon.
Stay calm, to help her relax, and remind her to let go of her tension as she breathes through her contractions.
Pushing & Giving Birth
This might feel a little confusing at first as your contractions will now feel like the urge to push. The contractions will now help your baby to move down through the pelvis and the birth canal, to enable him to be born. You will need to get used to the different sensations as your body stretches and moves to accommodate your baby.
Your contractions could be 60 seconds long, with a few minutes in-between.
What to do: Keep working with your body, use your breathing to stay calm, get reassurance from your midwife if you feel that you need it, give yourself time to get used to these new sensations.
Listen to your body and remember to breathe through your contractions – try not to hold your breath during pushing the way you see it on the tv.
Birth Partner: Continue to respond to her needs – whether it’s for space, a cuddle or helping her get into a comfortable position. Encourage her to breathe through her contractions and to let go of any tension in her shoulders, jaw and hands.
Information for birth
antenatal educator, doula, postnatal group leader, baby massage instructor, parent life coach
I have worked with expectant parents since 2002 and I have taught antenatal classes almost weekly since 2005.
I am NCT-trained and, due to my knowledge, training and experience, I am able to provide information, support and reassurance for all expectant parents. My sessions are friendly and informal – not like a classroom – with small groups and 1:1 sessions so you can ask questions and gather all the information you need.In addition to general birth preparation, I specialise in being parent-focused so I can provide support for specific issues such as birth anxiety, giving birth again, being induced, planned caesareans and homebirths.
I am a mum of three and I have also worked as a birth doula, so I have attended a number of births.
If you have any queries, just send me a message…