At the start of labour, you will probably feel a range of emotions including excitement, anxiety, joyful anticipation and fear. You may want to contact your labour companion straight away and let him or her know the news.
As labour progresses, and the contractions get stronger, you will begin to shut out the world and focus almost exclusively on what is going on inside your body, and you won't want to make conversation or be distracted by practical issues.
• You may feel very serene, confident that your body knows how to give birth to your baby.
• You may feel panic-stricken and overwhelmed by the enormity of the experience you are going through.
Take long, slow breaths, concentrating on the out-breath. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. (See Pain relief/breathing and visualisation). Imagine that your baby has been born. Focus on how good it feels to have your baby in your arms.
Here's what some women said about the early stages of labour:
'It doesn't come suddenly; it's a build up and if you can deal with it mentally and not get too tense, then you can get through the later stages. You can learn as you go along how to cope with things.'
'Mine was a long labour, a 45-hour marathon. I had lots of time to think. I even baked a pie during the first stage!'
'When I woke up in the morning I felt what seemed like a strong period-like pain and then it went away - only to return 20 minutes later. I knew it was all starting then and I felt really excited!'