Preparing For Labour

NI Direct

Although the labour process can start at any stage during your pregnancy, in most cases it does not start until the 37th week at the earliest – three weeks before the due date.

Forward planning

As your delivery date approaches, it’s very important to be prepared for labour as it can happen at any time. Make sure you know how you will get to the hospital and have a bag packed with everything you will need (as you won’t know how long the labour process will be).

You should get a few things ready at least four weeks before your due date.

Packing your bag

Wherever you are having your baby, your midwife can help you decide what you will need to pack.

You may want to include the following:

  • something old, loose and comfortable to wear during labour for example an old shirt which should not restrict you from moving around or make you too hot
  • three changes of clothes
  • three comfortable, supportive bras, including nursing bras if you are planning to breastfeed - remember your breasts will be much larger than usual
  • about 24 super-absorbent sanitary towels (also known as maternity sanitary pads)
  • twenty four breast pads
  • a wash bag with toothbrush, hairbrush, flannel, lip balm and other toiletries
  • fruit juices and boiled sweets to give you energy in labour
  • towels preferably not white.
  • Things that can help you pass the time and relax for example books, magazines, IPod
  • a sponge or water spray to cool you down
  • front-opening nightdresses or pyjamas if you are going to breastfeed
  • light dressing gown and slippers
  • five or six pairs of (old) pants or disposable pants
  • a loose, comfortable outfit to come home in
  • clothes (including a hat) and 24 nappies for the baby
  • a shawl or blanket to wrap the baby in
  • car seat for taking baby home
  • your green maternity hand held record (MHHR) with birth plan
  • any other letters or test results

It is likely the hospital will be able to provide some or all of these, but you will probably feel more comfortable taking your own things.

The list above is not necessarily complete - so have a think about anything else you might need.

How will you know you're in labour?

When you go into labour, one or more of the following things will happen (the labour process is different for everyone):

  • contractions start occurring regularly, with increasingly shorter intervals between each one
  • the contractions become increasingly longer, and stronger
  • your waters will break (although this is only a sign of labour starting if it is accompanied by contractions)
  • you may feel cramps, much like period pains, and pains in the lower back
  • you may notice some vaginal discharge, of a brown or pink colour (this is known as ‘the show’)

If you are not sure if labour has started or not, call your doctor or midwife and they will be able to tell you.

If you are overdue

If your pregnancy lasts more than 40 weeks, you will be offered an induction for between 41-42 weeks (seven - 14 days after your due date).

Labour can be induced if your baby is overdue or there is any sort of risk to you or your baby’s health – for example, if you have high blood pressure or if your baby is failing to grow and thrive.

Induction is always planned in advance, so you will be able to talk over the benefits and disadvantages with your doctor and midwife and find out why they recommend your labour is induced.

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