What are the stages of labour?
Labour is defined by 3 main stages:
1st stage of labour - Latent phase (0-6cm dilated) and Active phase (6-10cm)
2nd stage of labour – 10cm dilated and pushing
3rd stage of labour - Delivery of the placenta
The first stage of labour, particularly the latent phase, can last a long time! It can potentially last up to 20 hours in first time mothers.
This is the time it takes for your body to adjust to labour and make the many changes necessary for bringing your baby into the world.
How does dilation happen in labour?
Your cervix starts out long and closed, and before it can start dilating in width, it usually needs to ‘efface’ or shorten in length first!
This process requires pressure from your baby’s head (or bottom for breech babies!) to help effacement and dilation of the cervix. This is aided by regular and strong uterine contractions.
During the latent phase the cervix generally dilates slower and less predictably than in active phase (6cm >=). Once in active labour phase, the cervix usually dilates 1 to 1.5cm an hour for first time mothers.
The dilation process can be much faster in second time mothers!
Written by Keryn Thompson, RM & IBCLC (L-301766)