If you think you may be in labour please contact our team so that they can prepare for your arrival. If you wish to have a water birth or use one of our birth pools for labour, let the team know when you call so they can ensure availability.

If you have any concerns about your pregnancy and need advice, please contact your named midwife (the name and number should be on your maternity notes) or our team on the numbers below:

Maternal Fetal Assessment Unit (MFAU)

Tel: 020 3447 9400 - Select option 2 if you think you may be in labour (24 hours a day).

Labour and delivery care

Tel: 020 3447 7113 - at all other times.

You are welcome to bring up to two birthing partners to be with you in The Birthing Centre and one birth partner if you plan to give birth on the Labour Ward. If you have a doula, the doula is welcome to attend to support you.

Everyone's labour is different, and how you will feel in early labour depends on whether you have had a baby before and how you perceive and cope with labour.

In early labour, also called the latent phase you may feel the following:

  • Persistent lower back or abdominal pain, often accompanied by a cramp pain similar to when you have a period.
  • A show (a brownish or blood-tinged sticky, mucus discharge). Labour may not be imminent, but it's a sign that things are moving along. You should carry on as normal.
  • Painful contractions that occur at regular and increasingly shorter intervals and become longer in duration and stronger in intensity.
  • Broken waters (continually leaking fluid from your vagina, that you are unable to control).

You have probably talked with your midwife about what to do when you think you're in labour. If you're not sure whether or not the time has come, don't be embarrassed to call us. We often receive calls from women who are uncertain if they're in labour and need guidance.

When you call we will listen to you and plan your care together. We will also want to know how close together your contractions are, how long they last and any other symptoms or concerns you may have, including how much your baby is moving.

If you're planning to have your baby in the hospital, we may ask you to come in so that we can assess your progress or suggest you remain at home if we think you are still in early labour.

If, when you come in, you are still in early labour we may encourage you to go home again until you're in active labour. This is because there is evidence to suggest that being at home is the best place to be during early labour. This is because at home you are calm and relaxed and therefore more likely to avoid unnecessary intervention.

You should contact us if:

  • your waters break, or if you suspect you're leaking amniotic fluid
  • your baby is moving less than usual
  • you have vaginal bleeding
  • you have fever, severe headaches, changes in your vision, or abdominal pain
  • you are worried or concerned

This will depend on what time of day it is, what you like doing and how you're feeling. Keeping calm and relaxed will help your labour to progress and help you cope with the contractions. Do whatever you would normally do to help you relax. This could mean watching a favourite film, listening to music, relaxing, or asking a friend or relative over to keep you company. You could alternate between walking and resting, or try taking a warm bath or shower to ease the pain. If you can, try to get some rest and eat and drink as normal to prepare you for the work ahead.

Early labour is a good time to try out different positions and breathing techniques to see if they help you cope with the contractions. If you've got a TENS machine, now is the time to use it.