Stages of Labor: Dilation Stage
Last week, I discussed prelabor. While I consider this a “stage of labor,” technically, the first stage of labor is the dilation stage. This stage is the longest of the stages of labor. The dilation stage, like its name says, is the part of labor when your cervix is thinning, softening, and dilating enough to allow your baby to be born.
The dilation stage of labor begins when contractions start becoming stronger, longer, and more closer together and ends when your cervix has dilated to ten centimeters. There is no way in knowing beforehand how long this stage will last for a mother but the average range is anywhere from two to twenty-four hours. Typically, this stage lasts longer in first time mothers however I know a couple of first time mothers who progressed through this stage in about four to five hours.
Dilation stage can be further divided into three phases: latent phase (early labor), active phase (active labor), and transition phase. I will go into more depth regarding these three stages in a few weeks.
Contractions in the beginning of this stage often last around thirty to forty seconds with a frequency from five to twenty minutes apart. Toward the end of the dilation stage, contractions will be lasting up to ninety seconds and coming every two to four minutes.
Once you believe you may be in this stage of labor, you should call your care provider and doula to let them know what is going on. You should call your care provider immediately if you go into labor before thirty-seven weeks or your water breaks. You may feel confident that you can handle the contractions on your own and not want your doula yet, but it is always a good idea to give her a heads up so she can make arrangements and be ready for when you do want her. Always feel free to call your care provider and/or doula when you have any questions or concerns.
This stage can last a long time which can lead to you and your spouse and other labor support becoming fatigued, anxious, and discouraged. Make sure you are eating, drinking between every contraction, and trying to rest and relax as much as you are able.
This stage is when you can really benefit from using comfort measures. I have written several articles on different comfort measures you may want to try during this stage of labor. Check out some of them and begin practicing them today so that when you need them, you won’t have to think about it much. Find your rhythm and you will find it much easier to cope through each wave.
Remaining calm, relaxed, and in a dark environment can help aid in the production of the hormones that help your contractions stay regular and effective. Remind yourself this will not last forever and every contraction is one more closer to you holding your baby in your arms.
This article is part of a series on the stages of labor. If you are interested in other articles related to this subject, you may find them on my Stages of Labor Resource Page.
If you are in the Denton, TX area and are interested in hiring a doula for your birth experience, contact me today to schedule a free consultation. If you enjoyed this article, you may be interested in checking out my Comfort Measures in Labor page.