What if labour starts during exercise?
The good news is that it’s very rare for babies to arrive without giving their mothers quite a bit of advance warning. Emergency births, where labour progresses very rapidly, are unusual – especially for first-time mums.
Planning ahead and knowing what happens to your body during labour – so that you have plenty of time to act – should give you confidence so that you can continue with your exercise plan right up until labour.
Being prepared for anything
By week 35, you should be ready in case your baby decides they want to introduce themselves to you earlier than expected. This means you must take several precautions when out and about.
Keep your mobile phone charged so that you’re able to contact your partner at any time. They can then, hopefully, come to collect you if necessary, or at least be able to arrange transport for you. You should have more than one emergency contact, and your midwife is likely to be one of them. Make sure all appropriate phone numbers are in your phone.
It might sound like a pain, but if possible, it’s a good idea to always have someone with you if you’re out exercising during the last few weeks of pregnancy, so that if things progress fast, they can get help to you quickly.
Keep your car filled with petrol and make sure you know the quickest routes to the hospital from wherever you are. Make sure your hospital bag is somewhere a friend or neighbour can get to it, so that if you go in to labour while out and about, they could go into your home and get the bag for you.
You should also make sure you have your maternity/antenatal notes with you at all times – even if you just go out for a walk.
The signs to look out for
You may worry whether you’ll be able to tell if labour is about to happen. There are three main signs that labour is about to start, and they can occur in any order.
A show – The protective plug that seals the cervix at the neck of the uterus may come away and pass down the vagina. It can appear as a blob of pink-tinged mucus.
Your waters break – This can result in either a trickle or a gush of clear fluid from your vagina. Your waters may break hours before labour starts or when labour is already established. Your waters breaking can happen during exercise, such as when doing pelvic tilts on an exercise ball, but it is important not to panic and, whatever you do, focus on getting either home or to hospital and not on clearing up.
Contractions – During the first stage of labour, early contractions are mild and infrequent, becoming stronger and coming closer together to dilate the cervix to 10cm (which is when the second stage of labour, or ‘the pushing stage’, begins).
Some women may feel sick at the early onset of labour or may possibly experience diarrhoea. Therefore, it’s important to drink plenty of fluids (always have a water bottle with you) and that you have something to eat to give yourself plenty of energy.
If you start to experience pains similar to period pain while exercising after 37 weeks, it’s always a good idea to stop and just monitor yourself for a while to see if the pains are regular and gradually getting stronger. Don’t exercise through the pain (you should never do that in pregnancy), but if the pains stop completely, then there’s no reason why you shouldn’t continue with gentle exercise as long as all painful sensation has gone.
When to go to the hospital
When regular contractions are coming at around three every ten minutes and each contraction is strong, lasting about 60 seconds it’s probably time to be thinking about a trip to hospital. However, if you live some distance away from the hospital, if it’s rush hour, or if this isn’t your first baby (subsequent births tend to progress a lot faster), leave sooner to make sure you’ve got plenty of time to get there.
If you find yourself away from home and away from your own hospital, just go to the nearest one. Take your maternity notes and this will help medical staff understand the progression of your pregnancy. If you have to be away from home near your due date, always take your notes and packed hospital bag with you.
How can I control panic?
Once you have learned what the signs of labour are and your hospital bag is packed, hopefully, this can help you to feel more relaxed. But it’s easy to feel panicked if you’re on your own or away from home and feel your contractions getting heavier.
If this happens to you, your breathing techniques can help to control anxiety. Deep breathing and calm focusing will help you cope with contractions and promote the release of oxytocin, the hormone that helps labour progress smoothly.
As long as you’re well-prepared and know what to look out for, then there is no reason to worry about going into labour while exercising.