Early labor typically lasts 5-12 hours, and it serves to open your cervix to 4 centimeters and thin it out so that your cervix goes from looking like a thick-walled cylinder to a thin cup. The best things you can do for yourself during early labor are to eat a little and rest, preferably on your left side. You may also want to slowly walk about the house, or even in your neighborhood, to help your labor progress and keep things--that is, your baby--moving in the right direction.
As your contractions intensify, you may need some additional support or distractions. This early stage of labor is the longest, and it can start to drag on if you're uncomfortable. You're most likely still at home at this stage, but you can set the mood for a peaceful labor and delivery by using some of the same support techniques you'll rely on once you're at the birth center or hospital. In fact, with most labors, you can remain at home until you're in active labor.
Originally published in You & Your Baby: Pregnancy.
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