Created by BabyCenter
Your body is meant to give birth. It will stretch and open in labour.
First, your cervix (the opening to your womb) has to shorten and soften. Feel your nose: it is firm. Now feel your lips: they are soft and stretchy. Your cervix starts out firm like your nose. In early labour, it becomes soft and stretchy like your lips.
Next, your cervix starts to open and widen. You may not notice this starting. Your womb may be contracting very gently. It might feel like the cramps you get with your period.
As time passes, you will get increasingly painful contractions. They will start to come regularly.
Everybody's labour is different. But usually, early contractions are more than 5 minutes apart and short, perhaps only 30 or 40 seconds long. They will not bother you much yet.
For some women, early labour starts and stops. For others, it moves smoothly into full labour, which gets stronger until your baby is born.