Three surprising ways to know which phase of birth you are in…

Chloe Mulholland

OK, before I get started I obviously have to add a HUGE caveat, that this is by no means medical advice and that these things won’t apply to everyone- every birth is different, every mum is different and there never has been and never will be a one-size-fits-all measure of how close you are to meeting your baby. However, what I’m sharing is patterns that I have noticed in many of the births I have attended over the years. So, maybe read on and see- if you’ve given birth before, did these apply to you? If you haven’t, maybe you will see similarities when you do.

Let’s get started…

  1. The pattern of your surges (for those who aren’t into hypnobirthing- these are the powerful waves created by your uterus to birth your baby).

I don’t mean the timing of them. Traditionally, we are told that for first babies when your surges reach a pattern of 3 minutes from the start of one, to another, with each one being a minute long- that your cervix is probably 4cm dilated and that this means you should call the midwife. Well- as with everything this may be right for some, but not others.

What I have found to be a slightly more accurate way of telling is actually how each one feels. When each one feels consistently as strong as the last one and they are coming frequently and on a regular basis (i.e. not a 5 minute gap, then a 2 minute gap).

Often, when the cervix is still thinning out (click here to find out more about the changes that happen to your cervix throughout the birth)- surges are irregular in their length and strength, with one feeling particularly intense and long and then another feeling milder and shorter. Once the thinning of the cervix is complete, then you often find the surges become much more regular. This is normally around the same time as the cervix reaching approximately 4cm  (NB I could probably write an entire thesis on just how useless a measure of 4cm dilatation genuinely is but, for now, it’s the measure that is used in most UK hospitals to determine the onset of ‘established labour’, so this is why I am using this language here).

2) How much are you talking?

So, this one often comes next. Once the cervix has finished thinning out and is really beginning to open up, mums often ‘go within’. Meaning, that they are totally aware of what is going on around them but that they don’t really take part in conversation and respond in the usual way. For example- you may go from saying “Do you know? I really fancy a drink. I think I packed some elder flower cordial in the pink bag over there. Could you be ever so kind and pour me a drink please?” to “Drink… please.”. This is simply a sign that your body and your brain are focusing on the birth. Just think, when you’re exercising it becomes difficult to talk, you just focus on doing that next squat or getting to the next milestone. It’s the same in birth- talking takes energy (mentally and physically) and your body knows that all the energy you have has to be ploughed into the birth, so speaking  becomes low on the priority list.

3) How sleepy are you?

Of course, if the birth has been going on for a long time you will probably feel tired but even if it hasn’t many mums reach a point in the birth when they feel extremely sleepy. This is actually a really good sign and not necessarily a sign of exhaustion. What happens, often just before the baby begins to really descend into the pelvis for the downwards (or pushing) phase, is that the cocktail of hormones within the body bring on a sense of sleepiness. We often want to fight this- feeling as though we have to be alert and awake for the birth. But the best thing to do is to breathe through the surges and then rest, rest, rest in between. If you suddenly find yourself falling asleep- it could be that you are nearing this particular phase of the birth. Exciting!

So, there you have it. The three things that I have noticed over the years, that can give an indication to how close you are to meeting your baby. I’d be so interested to know if you experienced any of them (I think experienced all of them when I gave birth) and I’ve seen so many mums go through similar births too- and of course a whole host of other experiences that would certainly throw each of my musings out of the window!



If you’d like to learn more about birth, we have a whole range of resources- from more blog posts, to weekly relaxation classes, to whole hypnobirthing courses (groups and private). Just get in touch to find out what might suit you- Southend area ( or or Upminster area (

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