Things to do in Early Labor

Couple watching a movie together on a laptop

On TV and in movies, people often rush to the hospital after 1 contraction, but in real life, most people spend the majority of early labor at home. Since early labor can last a while, you might feel anxious about what to do to fill that time. Here are some ideas:


Because spontaneous labor often starts during the night, doing what you can to get sleep in between contractions is important so that you’re not too tired later in labor. If you can’t sleep, try to get some good body rest. Relaxation exercises and water can help with that.

  • Sleep or nap if you can
  • Rest in a well supported position
  • Do relaxation exercises
  • Take a shower
  • Listen to an audiobook

Distract Yourself

Sometimes paying too much attention to your labor early in the process can cause something I like to call “Watched Pot Syndrome”. Best to stay occupied with things that divert your attention. If you can, just continue with whatever you would be doing normally. But if the contractions are mild and annoying, you can do other things, like:

  • Bake cookies
  • Make a meal
  • Watch TV or a movie
  • Go for a walk
  • Meet up with a friend
  • Spend time with your partner and/or older kids
  • Write a letter to your baby about how you feel

Be Active

On the flip side, you can spend some time being active. Don’t exhaust yourself trying to make labor happen, but if you feel like it you can:

  • Go for a walk
  • Do some prenatal yoga
  • Dance your heart out

Eat and Drink

Pregnant woman eating Nutella with a spoon

Remember that early labor can be quite long. While hospitals sometimes ask patients not to eat or drink after they’re admitted, in early labor at home you can eat and drink if you’re hungry or thirsty.

Drinking throughout labor is a good way to stay hydrated, and clear fluids like juice and electrolyte drinks can help with that and provide a few nutrients and calories for the exertion of labor. Later in labor, it’s better to sip liquids often, but in early labor you can drink normally.

Don’t force yourself to eat if you’re not hungry, unless you’d like to see it again later in labor. But if you feel hungry, go ahead and eat any of these things:

  • Whatever sounds good to you
  • Any food in your fridge that isn’t moldy or suspect
  • What you have handy in your pantry

Take Care of Business

While you don’t want to wear yourself down doing a whole lot of work in early labor, there’s no reason you can’t take care of a few things before your baby comes. Avoid driving yourself if the contractions are moderate or strong.

  • Grab a few things at the grocery store
  • Tidy up a bit
  • Call your birth team
  • Lay out your postpartum supplies
  • Call into work and fill them in

Finalize Plans

If there is anything you need to do to be ready to go to your birth place or get your home ready for your birth, now is the time. Once contractions are well established you can:

  • Arrange for care for older children and pets
  • Pack any remaining things you’ll need for your birth place
  • Set up anything you might need for a home birth