Going into labour can be a very exciting and nerve racking time and every woman will experience varying symptoms (even women who’ve delivered before can have very different experiences with each labour). Throughout this blog I will be discussing the first two stages of labour in general and some of the signs of labour that you may experience.
According to the textbooks, labour is defined as the onset of regular contractions (with or without the rupture of membranes or bloody show) that results in the dilatation of the cervix and the eventual birth of the baby. Not surprisingly, not everyone’s labour follows the textbook definition!
The first part of labour has two phases, the latent (when the cervix is between 0-4cm dilated) and active (cervlx dilated more than 4cm) phases. The latent phase can last a variable period of time (hours to days) and may include symptoms such as a persistent pain in the lower back and abdomen similar to menstrual cramping, the beginning of contractions that slowly increase in frequency and strength, the gush of amniotic fluid- water breaking, the bloody show appearing – a brownish bloody mucus discharge of the plug that blocked the cervix during pregnancy, disrupted sleep and loose bowels. If you have had the bloody show or your water has broken true labour may not be far off. It is advised you speak with your doctor immediately.
As the labour enters the active phase, the intensity of contractions increases and the rate of dilatation of the cervix becomes more rapid and predictable (usually at least one centimetre per hour). You may experience the following symptoms in any order with increasing intensity: heavy mucus discharge from the vagina, increasingly intense contractions, mood swings and difficulty walking as the baby moves into birthing position.
If you think you have entered the active stages of labour, meaning your cervix is dilated between 4cm to 10cm then it is time to go to the hospital. As your cervix continues to dilate you will experience contractions at a more steady and increasing pace. In some cases as contractions become stronger so does the pain the you may feel. You may also become anxious and require pain medication to help you cope. You may also find holding a conversation is difficult as the contractions become more intense.
If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms and are pregnant it is best to seek medical attention as quickly as possible.
This article is written to be informative and does not substitute seeking a professional consultation from a medical professional.