The First Stage of Labor – Active Labor

During the second part of the longest stage of labor, your cervix really opens up, continuing to dilate from about 4 centimeters up to 8 centimeters. Your contractions continue to become more intense, more regular and last longer, as your labor progresses. They get closer together, eventually about 3-5 minutes apart and may last over a minute each, as your baby gets in position for birth. Read more on labor below:

Active Labor

Physically, you may be feeling increasing pressure and pain in your back. You may be much less comfortable than the earlier phase, as your labor pains intensify and become more frequent. During this phase, you may feel more fatigue, leg discomfort and increasing mucousy discharge (bloody show), as well as diarrhea. If your water didn’t break earlier, it will now or your doctor or midwife may choose to rupture your membranes sometime during this phase. During active labor, some women request an epidural or other pain medication.

Emotionally, you may feel increasingly restless and anxious, especially if this phase lasts a long time. Your mood may become more serious and your initial excitement may begin to wane as your pain gets worse. You may find it very difficult to concentrate, while dealing with contractions and your support person can help keep you focused.

At this point, you will be headed for the hospital or there already. To reduce your growing discomfort, try breathing exercises and relaxation techniques (the ones that you may have learned in childbirth class), if you feel like doing them. Concentrate on resting and relaxing, because the more relaxed you are, the easier and quicker your labor may be. Soaking in a warm bath or taking a shower, may be helpful at this time. Experiment with different positions to find ones that are more comfortable. Discomfort can often be helped by positions that allow gravity to speed dilation, including walking, squatting or rolling on a birth ball. If you are confined to bed, try lying on your side.

If your doctor or midwife agrees that it’s alright to do so, drink clear liquids or suck on ice chips to keep from becoming dehydrated and also to keep your mouth from becoming dry. If you become hungry, you can ask if it’s okay to have a light snack, such as Jell-O, although many hospitals won’t allow you to eat anything during labor. In between contractions, get up and walk around, if possible. Take this time to use the bathroom, because urinating regularly will allow your baby’s head to move down more easily into the birth canal. A gentle massage from your partner (or support person) may be welcomed, although some women prefer not to be touched during this phase of labor.

Back to Labor Stages

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