How long does labour last?
Labour times vary greatly, but an average labour lasts 12-14 hours for first-time mums, and about seven hours for subsequent labours.
If labour lasts longer than 14 hours the first time, or nine hours in subsequent labours, your doctor will want to find out why and may intervene. The first stage of labour can be further divided into three separate phases. The latent phase is the longest, lasting about eight hours for first babies, and you'll feel contractions coming with increasing frequency and length, but they won't be too distressing. The next, active phase, will be shorter, lasting about three to five hours, but this is when your contractions become more painful, and you may want some pain relief. The final, transitional phase, is the shortest and most intense of all, usually lasting just under an hour, and comes right before the delivery.
Your contractions will now last about 60-90 seconds, with intervals of only 30-90 seconds. As the contractions become more forceful, you may find it hard to relax and this is the time you may feel the most discomfort. You may also feel a very strong urge to push, but should not do so unless you're fully dilated.
The intense pain may make you feel extremely irritable, even bad-tempered, with your birth partner. You may also feel that you can't go on any more, but you'll find hidden resources of energy to help you cope. Remind yourself that your baby's birth is now just minutes away.
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