Early Labor: These 6 early labor tools will help you prepare for active labor when it starts!

Laboring at home is a safe and effective way to get into a good labor pattern before going to where you’ll birth. Get ready for labor and increase your chances of having a positive birth experience with these popular early labor tools. Post these tools wherever they’ll remind you to practice them before real labor begins!

Early labor is when your cervix dilates from 0-3 cm, but how do you know when that is? In early labor, your contractions likely won’t fall into a pattern, and they won’t last very long—so there’s little that the nurses where you’ll birth can do for you that you can’t do for yourself at home.

Early labor is over when your contractions are 5 minutes apart, lasting 1 minute each for at least an hour, and they don’t stop if you lay down or eat or drink something. When this happens, get going to where you’ll give birth.

Still, every labor is unique, and these are guidelines. If you feel you need to get to a healthcare facility, go!

6 Early Labor Tools

Post these tips where you’ll be reminded to practice them: 

  1. Use comfort techniques from childbirth class. Most classes teach comfort activities for use in labor, like walking, counter pressure or even a snug hug via a shawl. Practice these actions before labor begins so that you’re already comforted by them.
  1. Breathe! Next time you’re in an uncomfortable or stressful situation, practice breathing that relaxes and calms you—this may not be the same technique for everyone. Stuck at a long red light—just breathe!
  1. Get rolling. Sitting on an exercise ball in early labor keeps you upright and working with gravity, opens your hips letting baby move down, and creates an easy rocking rhythm that’s comforting in labor. Perk: Use the ball postpartum when you’re ready to exercise.
  1. Bring the heat! Take a hot shower, bath, or use warm compresses or heating pads. Heat relaxes your muscles without interfering with labor.
  1. Eat something. Labor is work; fuel your body. Choose mild, simple foods like soup with crackers, pasta, or peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Choose what satisfies you without upsetting your stomach. You may not feel hungry, still it’s important to eat a little and stay hydrated during labor—it’s a marathon not a sprint.
  1. Rest and Relax! Early labor can take a while: Watch a movie (on your exercise ball part of the time) or nap.

Further reading: 

Late Preterm Baby: How To Care For

Baby Premature: How To Protect Them

Your Preemie’s First Year

Premature Baby Expectations

Pumping For your premature Baby

Premature Baby Care At Home


Heather Watson, PhD, MSN, BSRN is a nurse scientist at Johns Hopkins Health System and expert advisor to Healthy Mom&Baby.

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