During a contraction the uterus contracts. Most women describe it as an extreme version of menstrual cramps. Contractions come up like waves, just before the wave breaks, the pain is most fierce and afterwards it gets less. Between contractions there is no pain. The stronger, more frequent and regular the contraction get, the more labour progresses.
During the first stage of labour, contractions make your cervix gradually open up (dilate). This is usually the longest stage of labour. At the start of labour, the cervix starts to soften so it can open. This is called the latent phase, and you may feel irregular contractions. It can take many hours, or even days, before you’re in established labour. Established labour is when your cervix has dilated to more than 3cm and regular contractions are opening the cervix. Breathing exercises, massage and having a warm bath or shower may help ease pain during this early stage of labour.
Contractions during established labour come regularly every 3 to 4 minutes with a duration of 1 to 1,5mins. Some women experience the pain mostly in their lower abdomen, where other feel it in their back or legs. As the dilation progresses, contraction are stronger and more frequent. Between 8 and 10 cm dilation, the contractions will be most intens but there will always be a (little) break between contractions to regain your energy. During established labour we will check the dilation with internal exams every few hours and whenever necessary.
Labour can sometimes be slower than expected. This can happen if your contractions aren’t coming often enough or aren’t strong enough. If this is the case breaking the waters can help speed it up. During a vaginal examination we make a small break in the membrane. This will make your contractions feel stronger and more regular.
In the second stage of labour (when you are fully dilated) we will help you find a comfortable position to give birth in. You may want to sit, lie on your side, stand, kneel, or squat, whatever feels best for you. If you’ve had lots of backache while in labour, kneeling on all fours may help. You can push during contractions whenever you feel the urge. You may not feel the urge to push straight away. This stage of labour is hard work but we will guide you all the way through.
During your labour and birth we will guide you tailored-made to suite your needs.