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The Bump Editors

What to Expect When Latent Labor Starts

With all the different labor stages, it can get kind of confusing. Learn what latent labor is and what happens when it kicks into gear.

Latent labor, also called early labor, is the very beginning of your body prepping for delivery.

During latent labor, you’ll start to have regular contractions, which will feel like strong tightening in your belly and could be super-painful or just a little uncomfortable (it all depends on the mom-to-be). Many women know these are different from Braxton Hicks contractions, because the pressure usually starts in the back and moves forward to your lower belly—again, everyone’s different, so this may not be the case for you. Contractions may start about 15 minutes apart and last about 60 to 90 seconds, and then speed up to about five minutes apart.

So what’s the point of all those contractions, anyhow? Well, during latent labor, the contractions are causing your cervix to dilate to make way for baby. How long it will last varies a lot, but the average latent labor for first-time moms is 6 to 12 hours.

Once you think latent labor is happening, start watching the clock (you can use our easy Contraction Counter to help you keep track). Call your OB’s office and let them know what’s happening. The doc will likely tell you at what point to start heading to the hospital, but be warned: It might not be right away. That’s because many hospitals won’t admit you until you’re in active labor, so at the beginning stages, you’re probably better off at home.

So what else should you do during early labor? Well, make sure you’re finished packing for the hospital and try to relax. Staying calm and doing deep breathing can actually help your body work its dilation magic. So can changing positions often, so try alternating moving around with resting. Take a walk, nap, shower, listen to music, ask your partner for a back massage—whatever you feel like doing. But don’t stress out. Remember—you’ll get to meet baby soon!

Expert source: Your Pregnancy and Childbirth: Month to Month, Fifth Edition, by The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

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