Active labor is the period of time when your cervix dilates between four and eight centimeters.  Contractions usually come between three and five minutes apart, dilating the cervix approximately one centimeter per hour. During this time, the contractions that you have been experiencing will become stronger and more intense. You will also find that as time progresses the contractions are getting closer together and lasting longer.

Most of the time, this is the longest stage of labor. During this time, your body is opening the cervix so the baby can move into the birth canal (vagina). At this point your body is also preparing for your baby to be born by stretching the pelvis, preparing the colostrum and stimulating the baby’s nervous and respiratory systems.

During active labor you may find that you become more serious and focused during contractions.  You may not talk during contractions, or sometimes between contractions.  As your body works harder to contract the uterus, you will naturally spend less energy on "non-labor" activities such as moving and talking. You will also find that your hunger naturally disappears so your body will not waste energy trying to digest food.

Changing your activity and position as desired may help you to remain comfortable during active labor.  This prevents over stressing one or two muscle groups by changing the way you hold your baby.  Also, it allows you to respond to the changing feelings in your body caused by the baby moving through the pelvis.

What is active labor?