By the time you get to the end of the first stage of labor, you will be at 10 centimeters and ready to push your baby into this world. The first stage of labor is broken up into three different sections: Early Labor, Active Labor and Transitional Labor.

Early Labor

Early labor is defined as the time period in which the cervix takes to dilate between 0 and 4 centimeters. This usually occurs in a time frame of between 4 to 24 hours but can extend over a longer period of time.

The contractions that you feel during this time are mild or moderate and last between 30 to 45 seconds and may be regular or irregular and between 5 to 20 minutes apart.

Tips for Early Labor:

  • Rest as much as possible.
  • Stay away from meats, dairy or high fat foods.
  • Foods that are good for you include:
    • Teas
    • Fruit Juice
    • Eggs
    • Toast and Butter
    • Cooked Fruits

Signs of Early Labor:

  • Backache
  • Menstrual like cramps
  • Indigestion
  • Diarrhea
  • Warm Sensation of Abdomen
  • Bloody Show

Coping with Early Labor:

  • Warm bath
  • Heating pad for backache
  • Do NOT take aspirin as it increases chances of complications with bleeding.
  • Relaxation exercises
  • Keeping busy with light activities
  • Sleep if it is night time
  • Activities to take your mind off of the labor like TV, games or reading.

How to Time a Contraction

What you will need: A watch with a second hand Pad of paper Writing instrument Time between the contractions is measured from the beginning of one contraction to the beginning of the next contraction. Length of contraction is timed from the time you feel the contraction starting until the time you feel it finish.

Active Labor

You are in active labor while you cervix is dilating from 4 to 8 centimeters. This stage of labor usually lasts from between 2 to 3 1/2 hours.
Your contractions during this stage of labor will be between 3 and 4 minutes apart and be 40 to 60 seconds in length.
When your contractions are about 5 minutes apart for an hour, this is usually when you call your health care provider.

Indications of Active Labor:

  • Increased back pain
  • Leg pains
  • More bloody show
  • Anxiety

As contraction become more difficult to deal with, you will probably become less aware of your surroundings and retreat with in yourself to deal with the contractions. You will probably end up talking less during this stage.

As labor progresses, your membranes may rupture and with this there is usually a gush of fluid. After the membranes break, your contractions will usually speed up and increase in intensity after this point.

Tips for Active Labor


  • Slow breathing helps you through contractions.
  • Focus on positive images or relaxing music
  • Showering or bathing, changing positions, massage and hot and cold compresses can help relieve discomfort.
  • Walking, standing and sitting upright will help labor to progress.
  • Relaxing during and between contractions helps to save energy and helps the cervix dilate.
  • Being very anxious or tense may slow down the progress of your labor.

Transitional Labor

You are technically in transitional labor while your cervix dilates from 8 to 10 centimeters. Your contractions will be VERY strong at the point and will be 60 to 90 seconds long and will be 2 to 3 minutes apart.

Signs of Transitional Labor:

  • Feel strong pressure in your back and against the perineum from the baby’s head
  • Bloody vaginal show will increase
  • You may feel:
    • Leg cramps
    • Nausea
    • Exhaustion
    • An overwhelming urge to push

Hang in there! Your baby is almost here!

The First Stage of Labor