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The First Stage of Labour - Dilation of Cervix

What happens in the first stage of labour

The first stage involves the 3 phases of labour - early, active and transitional phases which end with the dilation of the cervix.  This stage can spread over a period of days or weeks, without noticeable labour or can cover a period of 2-24 hours of obvious contractions, which usually last about 30-45 seconds. They are usually mild or slightly strong and could be fairly irregular, ranging anywhere between 5-20 minutes apart.

What will I experience

You may experience menstrual like cramps, backache, indigestion, diarrhoea or maybe a slightly bloody discharge. A warm sensation in the abdomen is also indicative of this early stage.

Will I be in a lot of pain

Even though it is the longest phase, it is thankfully also the least intense, and consists of the opening and thinning of the cervix to about 3 cms. You will need to go to the hospital at the end of this phase or the beginning of the next. Until then, relax and make yourself comfortable. You could try diverting your mind by going about your usual routine or you could solve a puzzle or play a game. But whatever you do, don't lie on your back as this will only slow down labour and may reduce blood supply to the baby. And certainly do not touch an aspirin. You could eat a light snack if you are hungry, but avoid having a heavy meal as it will lead to increased discomfort later. Please do not start your breathing exercises in this phase.

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