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The First Stage of Labour - Early Phase

August 13, 2013 by HealthyFamilies BC

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pregnant woman in chair looking at ultrasound results

 

 

The first stage of labour begins with contractions that continue to increase in length and intensity, and ends when the cervix is fully dilated. This can last anywhere from a few hours to a few days.

It has three phases: early, active and transition.


During the early phase, you might have a backache and feel some pelvic pressure, as if your period is starting. Some women will also feel discomfort in their thighs, hips and abdomen. Contractions may resemble menstrual cramps and last between 20 and 45 seconds, but likely will not be regular.

They may start every 10 to 20 minutes, or you may not even be aware of them at first. 

Early first stage labour signs

  • Cervix softens and opens to about three or four centimetres. 
  • Baby's head comes down in pelvis. 
  • You have diarrhea. 
  • You have "show" (slightly pink, vaginal mucus). 
  • Your water (amniotic sac) leaks or ruptures. 

Tips for you and your support person

  • Carry on your usual activities as long as possible. Go for a walk, try to sleep or rest, make meals. 
  • Breathe in a normal manner until you can no longer talk or walk through contractions, then start with slow breathing as needed.
  • Eat a light meal and drink fluids.
  • Take a shower if someone is nearby to help you. 
  • If your water breaks or leaks, put on a sanitary pad and call your healthcare provider. 
  • If your water leaks or breaks and the liquid is green, go to the hospital. Green means your baby has had a bowel movement. This may happen for no reason. It may also happen if your baby has been stressed or is in a breech position.  

When to call your doctor or midwife:

  • When your contractions are regular and uncomfortable, usually 3-5 minutes apart and lasting 45-60 seconds.
  • If your water breaks or leaks.
  • If you have vaginal bleeding, or show (pink tinged vaginal mucus).
  • If your water leaks or breaks and the liquid is green, go to the hospital. Green means your baby has had a bowel movement. This may happen for no reason. It may also happen if your baby has been stressed or is in a breech position.
  • If you are uncomfortable staying at home.
  • If you have been advised to call for other reasons.

dilation - illustration


Resources & Links: 
HealthLink BC: Labor and Delivery

 

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