Labour is split into two overall stages, helpfully called the first stage and the second stage. The first stage takes you from 0cm dilated to 10cm, and is made up of the latent phase, the active phase and transition. The second stage takes you from 10cm to baby being born, and is split into the passive phase and the active phase. Let’s have a closer look at all these phases, shall we?
In the latent phase, the cervix slowly dilates to about 3cm. This often happens without you really noticing over a few days or even weeks!
In the active phase, the cervix dilates from 3cm to 8cm. This usually happens at about 1-2cm per hour and is typically faster for women who have given birth before.
In the transition phase, the cervix dilates from 8cm to 10cm. Transition can be one of the toughest stages of labour and tends to be when you think, ‘I just can’t do this!’ Although this tends to be the most painful part, it’s usually the shortest too, lasting between 15 minutes and an hour.
In the passive phase, you are fully dilated but won’t feel the urge to push.
In the active phase, you are fully dilated and will feel the urge to push. Most women give birth well within three hours of active pushing - wahoo!