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Don’t stop now! Keeping labour going

Written by Amina Hatia RM
Medically reviewed by Marley Hall BA RM Diphe
June 29, 2020

So, after a long 9 months of waiting,  don’t stop now! keeping labour going….  the worrying and anticipating is over, finally your contractions begin!

Not long now and hopefully labour will be well and truly under way, and your little one will be delivered! Right?

Well, no, not always… sometimes labour can come to a grinding (and very disappointing!) halt.

So, keeping labour going once it starts?  We’ve got some fab advice from One Born Every Minute’s Lesley Gilchrist from her book ‘The Bump, Birth and Baby Bible’ on keeping those contractions coming!!

Keeping Labour Going

Labour is a funny thing. It is unpredictable, can start without a second’s notice and stop just as abruptly.

In an effort to maintain contractions you may find that walking makes them more frequent and if this is the case then walk as much as you can. You may even find that sitting on the toilet makes them more intense.

What you want to avoid is staying awake when the contractions are coming every thirty minutes. That is usually labour’s way of telling you to go to bed and sleep or simply rest if you cannot.


On the subject of toilets they are extremely effective to use in labour if your baby is back to back. They work in a similar way to squatting by increasing the space in your pelvis. Using the toilet you are more likely to be able to maintain this position for longer than if squatting.

This extra space allows your baby to move further down into your pelvis. Studies have shown that this position increases the room in your pelvis by 20-30 percent.

Baby is back to back

If your baby is in the back to back or occipito posterior, then the diameter of your baby’s head as he tries to negotiate your pelvis is larger than if he was facing towards your spine. The anatomy of your pelvis makes it an elliptical shape at the top round in the middle and the opposite elliptical shape at the bottom.

You then have your pelvic floor, a muscle which hangs like a sling from the bottom of your pelvis from front to back and side to side.

This ‘sling’ forms a gutter shape which is higher at the back than the front. The purpose of this sling is to give resistance to the baby’s head as he descends allowing him to make a quarter turn in the middle of your pelvis into the correct position to be born.

If your baby is back to back then his head is inclined to tip backwards making the diameter even larger. His head, now in a more awkward position is then forced down onto your pelvic floor in order to turn. As his head is slightly larger now this process of descending through the pelvis takes longer.

The force of this process exerts greater pressure on the muscles and ligaments of the movable parts of your pelvis and that results in backache.

If you do suffer backache, and back rubs don’t relieve the pain, you may find that sitting on the toilet helps. This time on the toilet should give your baby’s head enough room to descend onto the ‘sling’ of your pelvic floor and turn his head into the normal smaller diameter position.

Even if your baby is not back to back, by changing the shape and diameter of your pelvis you allow your baby’s head to descend into your pelvis more quickly.

As his head reaches your pelvic floor it will exert pressure, which initiates the ‘Ferguson Reflex’. This reflex causes an increase in the production of oxytocin which in turn increases the strength, frequency and duration of the contractions.

There may be a temptation at this point to want to have a break from the contractions and adopt a position where they come less frequently and with less intensity. In order to reduce the amount of contractions your body needs to produce less oxytocin. The less oxytocin you produce the more likely it is that your labour will slow down or stop.

In order to produce high levels of oxytocin try to maintain the position that gives you the most intense and frequent contractions and try other forms of pain relief. This will take effort and energy so it is important that you remember to feed your body to maximise its efficiency.

Top tips to keep labour going

  1. Adapt your environment appropriately –
    • Dim lighting.
    • Soft, tranquil music.
    • Minimal noise and distraction.
    • Aromatherapy
  2. Use the position that gives you the most intense and frequent contractions for keeping labour going.
  3. Avoid any position that reduces the frequency or intensity of your contractions such as lying down.
  4. Stay well hydrated and try to eat small amounts of easily digestible food.
  5. Reinforce to yourself that you are not a passenger in keeping labour going, and that it is your body and you are in control.
  6. Empty your bladder regularly.