The latent phase is the beginning of labour, when your cervix becomes soft and thin and starts opening for your baby to be born. This can take hours or, for some women, days. You'll probably be advised to stay at home during this time. If you go to the hospital or maternity unit, they may suggest you go back home.
There are several signs to look out for that suggest labour might be starting:
For a lot of women, contractions feel like strong period pains. Your tummy will go hard at the same time as you having a pain, and then it will go soft again as the pain eases. They may start off coming every 7-10 minutes, lasting 20-30 seconds. As your labour progresses, you will notice that they form a regular pattern and they will get stronger and longer. These contractions are making your cervix efface (get thinner) and dilate (open up). Please call the labour ward for further advice when your contractions are coming regularly every 4-5 minutes, lasting 60 seconds.
A mucous show is also known as your ‘plug’. It is a clear or blood stained jelly-like substance which comes away through your vagina. It is not a guaranteed sign that labour is imminent, and you don’t need to call us to tell us that you have had this.
When your waters break, you may feel a slow trickle or a sudden gush of warm fluid. It is often clear, straw like fluid but may also be green or blood stained. If you do think your waters have broken, please call the labour ward for advice and to be seen to plan the rest of your pregnancy.
What should I do in the latent phase?
If you are experiencing signs of early labour, please contact your midwife in the first instance to discuss your symptoms. Your midwife will be able to best advise as to whether you should remain at home, or be admitted to hospital.
If all is well with you, your baby and your pregnancy, you may be encouraged to remain at home during the latent phase, as being at home in a relaxing and comforting environment will encourage labour to progress naturally. Remember, all labours are different and can vary in length, even if you have laboured before.
- Distraction is key! Watch something funny to increase your oxytocin levels. Listen to some nice music. Go for a walk. Keep yourself busy with light chores around the house. When labour gets stronger, you won’t be able to do these things, and that’s a good sign!
- Try having a soak in a warm bath or shower, or using a hot water bottle.
- To manage early labour pain, you can take 2x 500mg Paracetamol tablets at home, every 4 to 6 hours (max. 8 tablets in 24 hours)
- Drink lots of fluids and eat whatever appeals to keep your energy levels up
- Go to the toilet regularly; an empty bladder helps your womb contract more efficiently and allows more room for your baby to descend
- Focus on your breathing
- Keep yourself upright and find a balance between resting and mobilising, to encourage baby into a good position. Remember to lie down on your left hand side if possible when resting.
- Apply a TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) machine if you have hired or purchased one.