What you need to know about the first stage of labour

birth education Jul 15, 2023
The first stage of labour


Bringing a new life into the world is a miraculous and transformative experience. The process of childbirth can be divided into several stages, each with its unique characteristics and challenges. In this blog post, we'll explore the first stage of labour, a significant milestone that marks the beginning of the journey toward meeting your baby for the first time.

Understanding the First Stage of Labor

The first stage of labour is the longest phase and can be divided into three sub-stages: early labour, active labour, and transition. This stage commences with the onset of regular contractions and culminates with the cervix fully dilated at 10 centimeters. Let's delve into each sub-stage:

Stage 1: Early Labor

Early labour is characterized by mild and irregular contractions that may feel similar to menstrual cramps. During this phase, your cervix begins to efface and dilate (thin and open), preparing for your baby's descent. This stage can last for several hours or even days, and it is common for expectant mothers to feel excited, anxious, or a mix of emotions. It is advisable to conserve energy during this phase by resting, staying hydrated, and practicing relaxation techniques.

Stage 2: Active Labor

As early labour progresses, contractions become more regular, stronger, and closer together. Active labour is marked by increased intensity, typically with contractions lasting around 45-60 seconds and occurring every 3-5 minutes. At this point, it is recommended to head to your chosen birthing location, as labour is advancing. Breathing exercises and pain management techniques, such as relaxation techniques or medications if desired, can help cope with the intensifying contractions.


Transition is the final and often the most challenging sub-stage of the first stage of labour. Contractions reach their peak intensity and occur more frequently, approximately every 2-3 minutes, lasting up to 90 seconds. Some women experience nausea, shaking, or a sense of restlessness during this phase. It is crucial to remain focused, practice deep breathing, and rely on the support of your birthing companions or healthcare professionals. Transition signifies that the cervix is nearing full dilation, setting the stage for the second stage of labour, where pushing begins and your baby is born.

Support and Preparation

Childbirth is a deeply personal and unique experience for every mother-to-be. Building a strong support system, which may include a partner, doula, or healthcare provider, can provide invaluable encouragement and guidance throughout the first stage of labour.

Additionally, attending childbirth education classes, creating a birth plan, and understanding the available pain management options will empower you to make informed decisions that align with your preferences and goals.


The first stage of labour is an awe-inspiring journey filled with physical and emotional transformations. From the excitement of early contractions to the intensity of transition, each sub-stage brings you one step closer to the arrival of your precious little one.

Remember, this stage requires patience, resilience, and trust in your body's innate ability to birth. Embrace the support around you, stay informed, and believe in the strength that lies within you. Your journey through childbirth has begun, and the miracle of new life awaits at the end of this remarkable path.

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