What to Expect During Labor: Stage 1

Dr. Morice can attest that labor is different for everybody. Some tubal reversal patients report having a difficult labors, others seem like they don’t even notice it’s happening. While labor experiences vary, there is a set of phases that each woman goes through in labor. It’s helpful to know about these phases when you’re preparing yourself for labor, so you can recognize them as they come. Today we’ll discuss Stage 1, which includes early and active labor.

Early Labor

Preterm Labor and BirthDuring early labor, your cervix begins to dilate and efface, or thin out, to prepare for labor. This stage can last up to 3 days, so it’s not necessary to go to the hospital the second you feel a contraction.

Early labor begins with mild cramping, bloating, or abdominal discomfort. Eventually, these contractions start to become stronger and more frequent. You may or may not pass your cervical mucus plug, which would appear as a bit of blood on your underwear or in the toilet. Your “water”, or amniotic sac, may also break during this stage.


During early labor, it’s easy to get anxious. The most important thing to do during this stage is relax. If you’re hungry, have a light meal such as toast with jelly. Don’t eat anything too heavy, as your digestive system will slow down during labor.


Once your contractions have had a frequency of every 5 minutes for an hour, active labor begins. Your doctor and you will have set up a plan as to when to head to the hospital or birthing center based on your contractions. Women are typically dilated to about 4 cm by the end of early labor.


Active Labor


Active labor is more challenging than early labor. During active labor, your cervix will dilate up to 10 cm. Your contractions will become more frequent and more painful. You will feel increasing pressure in your back and may experience nausea. Now is the time to go to the hospital or birthing center.


Active labor typically lasts up to 8 hours. Some women are in active labor for much longer or shorter. If you have had a vaginal birth before, it is often shorter.


Contractions during this time can be very painful. Techniques that have helped some women are light massages, an ice pack, eating ice chips, or listening to music. Changing positions and, if you are able to, walking also helps. Work with your healthcare provider and support system to get everything you need during this challenging time. You may have a desire to push, but the nurses will tell you whether or not you are dilated enough. Once you are dilated to 10 cm, it’s time to push and deliver your baby! This marks the beginning of Stage 2, or delivery. We will cover this in our next post.


Dr. Morice is a skilled low-cost tubal reversal surgeon at the Atchafalaya clinic in Morgan City, LA. Contact us at (985) 702-BABY or to schedule your prenatal appointment.




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