Stage 1 of Labour
During early labour some women find a warm bath helpful. Listening to soft music or going for a walk can also help. Simple, over-the-counter drugs like paracetamol can be taken, particularly if you have backache. Walking and using upright positions can improve your comfort too. In the early part of labour, you may have some light food.
Signs of true labour include:
- contractions occurring regularly;
- contractions getting longer, stronger and closer together;
- walking around or changing position does not make your contractions go away.
The length of the first stage of labour can be different for every woman. If it is your first labour, the time from the start of labour to full dilation of the cervix (10 cm) is usually 6 – 12 hours. If it’s not your first labour, the time is usually shorter. The midwife will monitor the progress of your labour by continuously assessing the frequency, strength and length of your contractions. They will check every few hours to see how your cervix is dilating, what way the baby is presenting and how the baby is moving down through the pelvis.
Generally, as labour progresses, your contractions will become gradually stronger and more painful and come closer together. The bag of water (liquor) may still be present or may break at any time during this period.
Throughout your labour, the midwife provides emotional support, including reassurance and encouragement. They will tell you what is happening and help you to communicate your needs to other members of the team and help you to make choices that work for you. If you need any medical help to ensure your own safety and your baby’s safety, the midwife will explain the reasons for it.
Towards the end of the first stage of labour, you may feel like pushing during the contractions. The midwife will let you know when the cervix is fully dilated and when it is safe to push.