27 Tips for Early Labor | Grand Rapids Doula + Birth Photographer

After months of waiting, the first signs of labor can bring on quite a rush of emotion.

Excitement, anticipation, worry, restlessness, relief.

With all of my doula clients, I offer suggestions for some ways to prepare for this stage of labor. And today, I’m sharing them with you, too!

Jessica Maternity Web-41.jpg


It’s important to do your best to save your energy for the hard work of labor. Your partner should also get some rest, if possible. Take the opportunity to rest your body until you no longer can.

If you are able to do so, sleep. But how could you possibly sleep? Here are some ideas to make falling asleep easier:

1 . Have your partner, friend, or family member give you a hand, foot, or back massage.

2 . Listen to relaxation, meditation or hypnosis tracks on your GentleBirth or Expectful app.

3 . Read one of your old textbooks (works for me every time).

4 . Close your blackout curtains and play spa music.


early labor in the tub


My favorite early labor tip is to take a warm bath. During this stage of labor, a bath always accomplishes something good. It either helps you relax to the point of being able to fall asleep afterwards, or it relaxes you and causes contractions to intensify. Either way, the outcome is good. So, especially if cramping or contractions begin in the evening or at nightfall (which they often do), take a bath! Some tips:

5 . Recline against a bath pillow or a squishy pool noodle to make things more comfortable.

6 . If you have a standard tub, get an overflow drain cover to give yourself more water depth.

7 . Hang waterproof twinkly lights in the bathroom - I bring the same ones to your birth.

8 . Light candles and turn off the lights.

9 . Play calming music or your meditation tracks.

10 . If you use essential oils, get your diffuser going with couple drops of lavender oil.

11 . Visualize yourself confidently laboring, your cervix softening, your face and shoulders relaxed.


If you can’t rest or sleep, the best thing to do during early labor is to distract yourself, and do your best not to think about it. If coming up with things on the spot is difficult, make a list of options! Try to keep the activities restful for the body, distracting for the mind. Don’t forget to keep eating and drinking healthy food and drink for energy. Here are some ideas:

12 . Save the final couple episodes of your favorite Netflix series, and watch them.

13 . Read a romance novel (oxytocin flow for the win!).

14 . Along those lines, have sex with your partner with lots of foreplay and cuddling (ask midwife/OB about this if your water has broken or is leaking).

15 . Call a friend from out of town and catch up.

16 . Watch a movie you’ve been looking forward to seeing.

17 . Go out for lunch with a friend.

i am strong enough birth affirmation


If not thinking about your labor isn’t working, pull out a list like this with ideas for low-impact labor projects:

18 . Paint or draw out labor and birth affirmations.

19 . Cook or bake a complicated recipe that requires focus. Maybe a birth-day cake?

20 . If you are anxious, spend some time journaling or reach out to your doula to process together.

21 . Cut up vegetables or fruit for postpartum/nursing snacking.

22 . Read positive birth stories in Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth or listen to a birth story podcast like The Birth Hour.

23 . Ask a friend to pick up ingredients for crock-pot meals for postpartum and assemble them together.

24 . Prep your Icy Pad Kit from your Care Bundle if you haven’t already. ;-)

25 . Make sure your birth bag is packed if you are planning a hospital birth.

26 . Inflate the birth pool if you are planning a home birth.

27 . Go for a slow-paced walk around the neighborhood.

Remember, early labor often ebbs and flows. Try not to get discouraged. Your body knows what it’s doing. All work is good work, and all the quiet times and lulls are moments to be grateful for.

You’ve totally got this.