How long will my labour/birth be?

By Kaz Cooke
From the latest edition
of Up the Duff

How long will my labour/birth be?

There is no definitive answer to this question – it is simply different for each and every one of us. A ‘textbook’ labour (please bear in mind you are not a textbook) for a first-timer however, goes something like this:

  • First stage, latent phase – the cervix dilates to 3 centimetres (over hours, days or even weeks)
  • First stage, active phase – the cervix dilates from 3 centimetres to 7 centimetres (3 – 8 hours)
  • First stage, transition phase – the cervix dilates to 10 centimetres (can be up to 3 hours)
  • Second stage, pushing, then the baby is born (average 1 hour but can be several hours)
  • Third stage – the placenta and other bits no longer needed are expelled (about 5 – 10 minutes after the birth if oxytocin is given, up to an hour if delivered naturally)
  • Fourth stage – skin-to-skin with your baby and getting acquainted. Baby’s first breastfeed and a full check from the midwives and/or doctor.

There’s muuuuuuch more on childbirth in the book Up the Duff: The Real Guide to Pregnancy.