Onset of labour – Teaching ideas and activities for birth workers

Onset of labour – Teaching ideas and activities for birth workers

Onset of labour – Activities for Childbirth Education Classes. Some ideas for antenatal teachers, midwives, doulas and other birth workers.

I think it is safe to say that almost every expectant parent is thinking about the onset of labour.

  • How do we know?
  • When do we go to the hospital?
  • When do we call the midwife?
  • When do we call our partner?
  • What does it feel like?

During my years as an antenatal teacher, doula & facilitator, I have observed many other practitioners, attended antenatal classes when I was pregnant, read books and blogs. I have adapted and developed a number of different activities to cover the onset of labour in group as well as one-to-one sessions.

When I started my journey as an antenatal teacher, I used an activity by Mary Nolan to explore the onset of labour. From her book Antenatal Education: A dynamic approach.

In this activity, each group / couple has a set of cards with ‘symptoms’ on them such as ’41 weeks pregnant’, ‘strong regular contractions’, ‘lower back pain’, ‘waters break with a gush’, ‘mild irregular contractions’, etc… Each group is asked to shuffle their cards, then holding them face down and revealing one ‘symptom’ at a time. Lining the symptoms up, coming towards them. Each group has to decide “we are in labour” and to stop turning over cards.
While this activity sounds great and works well in tutorials with fellow future Antenatal Educators, I found that couples struggled to follow the concept and were mostly sorting the cards by ‘labour’ ‘not labour’ instead… This might have to do with my ability (or lack of) to explain the activity, who knows? This and many other labour and birth related activities are included in my ‘Labour & Birth Bundle’.

For my own sessions 1:1 and group, I now use a labour timeline approach. I mostly use both, my labour timeline banner and a labour beadline. After discussing possible signs of labour and warning signs in a brainstorm activity (depending on group size; possibly in 2 groups) We discuss in big group. I reveal the labour timeline bit by bit afterwards.

Labour Timeline Banners
Labour Beadline

Focus: onset of labour. The participants are asked (in small groups if I am working with a group) to come up with

  1. who to contact / how can we be ready / what do we need to remember to take with us?
  2. Comfort measures
  3. what happens (in the woman’s body)? where are we? where are we going?

This usually gives pregnant women and their partners a very good opportunity to think about having enough petrol in the car, do we both know where the notes are?, is the birth bag ready, do we have a plan B for transport (just in case)… Leading on to how ‘being ready’ having ‘a plan B’ can aid onset of labour as well as progress, bringing it back to hormones…. My hormones of labour and birth posters are hanging on a wall / table during the activity. 

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