During the first stage of labour, contractions make your cervix gradually open up (dilate). This is usually the longest stage of labour.
At the start of labour, the cervix starts to soften so it can open. This is called the latent phase, and you may feel irregular contractions. It can take many hours, or even days, before you’re in established labour.
Established labour is when your cervix has dilated to more than 3cm and regular contractions are opening the cervix.
During the latent phase, it’s a good idea to have something to eat and drink as you’ll need the energy once labour is established.
If your labour starts at night, try to stay comfortable and relaxed. Sleep if you can. If your labour starts during the day, keep upright and gently active. This helps your baby move down into the pelvis and the cervix to dilate.
Breathing exercises, massage and having a warm bath or shower may help ease pain during this early stage of labour.