Labour processes and experiences vary from woman to woman and can last from 12 to 24 hours. It may become shorter for subsequent pregnancies.
How Do I Know I Am In Labour?
Labour may start at any given time between 37 weeks to 41 weeks gestation. The following signs are indicate that your labour will begin very soon:
• A mucus plug which is released from the cervix before or at the onset of labour that is brownish or pinkish in colour
• Contractions (though you may experience periodic contractions several days before your baby is actually born)
• Water breaking (in which the amniotic fluid sac in the womb ruptures and leaks out from your cervix and vagina either during early or active labour)
You will experience mild, irregular contractions about 15 – 20 minutes apart in the early stages of labour. They will gradually become more frequent and your cervix will begin to dilate up to 3cm.
What Should I Do?
Continue resting at home or try out light relaxing activities if the labour pains are bearable. Remember to stay hydrated and eat during this period. Ease early labour discomfort with breathing exercises and by testing out various positions. Should your contractions become more painful (a contraction is considered strong if you are unable to talk through it) and occurring regularly about 10 minutes apart, or if you notice any vaginal bleeding or leakage of water you should head to the hospital.
From Active Labour to Birth
Your cervix starts to dilate more rapidly from 4cm to 10cm in the active labour stage. Your contractions will start occurring around every 5 minutes and lasting about 60 – 90 seconds long each. Active labour may last from 1 hour or up to 8 hours and some may experience nausea and shakiness at this stage. In the event of intense pain, you may opt for pain relief an epidural or practice natural pain management techniques. You and your baby’s heartbeat will be closely monitored throughout. The doctor will encourage you to start pushing when your cervix has fully dilated (10cm) until your baby’s head and body emerges. The whole process may take from 1 – 2 hours. Your doctor may make an incision called an episiotomy to widen the vaginal opening and assist the delivery of your baby if necessary.