While it’s difficult to predict exactly how long your labour might last, you can at least start to prepare for what to generally expect for labour and giving birth - whether this is your first baby or not.
time has arrived! You may be on, just before, or just past your due date and
you’ve started to experience the early signs of labour!
hopefully discussed this many times with your doctor and midwife, and had time
to mentally prepare yourself and build a picture of what to expect.
it’s difficult to predict exactly how long your labour might last, you can at
least start to prepare for what to generally expect for labour and giving birth
- whether this is your first baby or not.
What is labour?
your baby is ready to be born, your body will start the birthing process -
known as labour. There are a few signs to look out for that will indicate
you’re in the early stages of labour including:
Show (spotting or
a pink mucous discharge from the vagina)
Engagement of the
baby’s head (you will like your baby is pushing down)
A change in your baby’s
because of the baby’s position
will my labour last?
There are a number of different factors
that will affect how long your labour lasts, and it really does vary from woman
Your midwife will be able to give you a
rough indication, but there are no big predictors to say whether you will have
a quick or longer labour.
For first times mothers, an active labour
may last about eight hours - again, this is just an estimate based on other
first time mums and yours could be much shorter or even much longer (Sorry!).
Very few first time mums find they
experience a labour that lasts longer than 18 hours, if it does go on for this
long, your doctor will likely recommend an intervention procedure and perhaps
even a C-section.
If you’ve had a baby previously, you will
probably find that your second labour is much quicker than it was the first
time round, as your body will ‘remember’ what it is supposed to do. For many
second or third time mums, labour lasts about 5 hours, with it being very
unlikely that is would last longer than 12 hours. Again, these are just
estimates and do vary. There is no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to
Some of the other factors that may affect
how long your labour lasts for include:
Strength of your
contractions and how long they last for
How easily your
cervix opens up (dilates) - for some women this takes much longer
Whether you choose
to have an epidural as this can slow down labour down
The position/s you
adopt during labour and also the position of your baby
What are the stages of labour and the estimated duration of each stage?
below table takes a look at each of the stages of labour and how long they
typically last for:
Stage of Labour
First Time Pregnant
Pregnant at least
First Latent Phase
Slow Cervical Dilation
4 – 6 Hours
Rapid Cervical Dilation
5 – 7 hours
Delivery of Baby
30 mins to 2 hours
30 mins – 1 hour
Delivery of Placenta
15 – 30 mins
5 – 30 mins
When should I go to the hospital?
women will be sent back home if they go to the hospital too early, as it is
best to sit out the majority of your labour where you can be the most
comfortable and relaxed - and that usually isn’t the hospital!
you have been advised of any potential problems or complications that are
likely to occur during your labour then it is best to wait it out at home and
go to the hospital when you really need to. Your midwife will advise you of
when you need to make the move.
most important indication will be from your contractions and how long and
strong they are. Generally, they need to be about 60 seconds long for them to
be effectively dilating the cervix.
should go to the hospital if:
Your contractions are very strong and regular
Your water has broken
You notice blood during labour
What can I do to help myself through my
is key! If you’re feeling anxious, make sure you have a good chat with your
midwife and discuss relaxation tips and tricks to help keep you calm and
relaxed, as much as is possible!
helps to take your mind of the pain and get baby moving also! Taking a light
walk around the home or in fresh air can be very beneficial.
hydrated and try to eat light snacks if you find your labour going on for a
while. It’s important to keep your energy up!
to breathe deeply and slowly, and get your partner involved too.
many women experiencing labour can seem really daunting and scary, but remember
it is an extremely natural experience - one of the most natural in the world!
It’s a stressful situation to go to but having your baby in your arms
afterwards will be the best feeling in the world.
Welcome to Babyinfo – the ultimate pregnancy and newborn information guide. We are here to help you find all the pregnancy and baby info you need to make the most beautiful experience of your life even better.
Our team is comprised of an amazing mix of experienced mothers, recently pregnant women, and editors with tremendous medical knowledge in the fields of gynaecology and childbirth.
Think of us as your friendly advisors, here to give you honest, easy to understand and authentic information. We are here to be your support at this crucial time in your life, when you need it the most.
Note: This website is in no way meant to replace doctors, hospitals, or other healthcare providers that may be utilized by current mothers or mothers-to-be. All mothers are advised to see a doctor for medical advice and the appropriate care before, during, and after pregnancy.