How long does labour usually take? What can you do to speed it up?
The duration varies between pregnancies and individuals. Generally, it gets faster with each subsequent pregnancy, says Dr Goh Shen Li, a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist in S L Goh Women’s Clinic at Mount Alvernia Medical Centre D.
The early phase of labour can range from half a day to two days, when the contractions can be mild and infrequent, and are usually bearable.
Sometimes, the rupture of the water bag indicates the start of labour, and contractions don’t occur until a few hours later.
Meanwhile, the active phase usually starts when the cervix is 3cm to 4cm dilated. It has to dilate to 10cm before you can push Baby out.
This stage can be as short as one hour for those having their second or third child, to as long as 10 to 12 hours for those having their first baby.
A good way to expedite the process when the pain is still tolerable is to walk around or climb the stairs.
Other options are medications that can increase the frequency and strength of your contractions. These come in either a vaginal pessary or via an intravenous route (through a drip in your hand).
Your doctor may order these if your labour has been abnormally slow, or there is a need to speed it up – for example, when your water bag has been ruptured for too long, hence increasing the risk of infection to your unborn baby.
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