You have now moved into the “active” stage of labour.  Contractions are much more intense, often 3-5 minutes apart and are lasting about 1 minute long.  It is much more difficult to walk or talk through these contractions.  It is time to get your game on.  Time to pull out all your options for getting yourself through these more difficult contractions.  What are you planning to use?  Massage? Visualization?  Meditation?  Breathing Techniques?  What positions have you read about and want to incorporate?  Have you thought about using the shower?  How are you going to focus?

Here are some things to help you know what to expect and have a few things in your back pocket to bring out when things get a little tougher to handle.

What is happening

  • Cervix is continuing to dilate from 3 centimeters to 7 centimeters
  • Contractions are lasting at least 60 seconds long
  • Contractions are strong enough in intensity that you must use your relaxation techniques, breathing patterns, massage, or visualization to get through a contraction.  You can no longer walk or talk during a contraction.
  • Contractions are 3 – 5 minutes apart.
  • You may be experiencing some “bloody show”, blood tinged discharge
  • Your water can rupture at any time during labour
  • This is the ideal time to make your way to your hospital or contact your midwife.

Helping yourself

  • Continue to take a deep cleansing breath at the beginning and end of each contraction.
  • Find an effective technique to help you cope with each contraction.  Breathing pattern, position, massage, visualization, music, shower, rocking, etc.
  • Try to relax and rest in between contractions to gain focus and energy for the next contraction.
  • Use positions of comfort.  Keeping in mind pelvic movement to aid in the decent of baby (birth ball, hands and knees, squatting, dangle, slow dancing, side lying).
  • Sink into your contractions, don’t fight against them causing tension in your pelvic floor muscles.
  • Remember the Gate Control Theory (severity of pain is determined by the balance of painful and non painful stimuli that reach your mind – find more non painful stimuli and feel less pain).
  • Continue to drink, suck on ice chips, have a popsicle.
  • Empty your bladder.
  • Although this is painful try to remember the emotional and spiritual elements of this experience.  You are part of a miracle.
  • Remember the baby.
  • Just know that as the intensity increases you are that much closer to meeting your little one.
  • Trust your body.

How your partner can help

  • Remain calm.
  • Help her relax and use breathing patterns.
  • Be totally present during a contraction.
  • Use touch, massage, counter pressure, cold or hot packs.
  • Be her advocate when working with the medical staff.
  • Remind her of her birth plan if she seems unsure.
  • Be there to discuss options when and if they arise.
  • Use verbal encouragement.  Be proud of her.
  • Offer her liquids, or ice chips.
  • Help her move in and out of different positions.
  • Remind her to use the bathroom.
  • Help her trust her body.
  • Help create a space of calm, where she can safely do the work she is meant to accomplish.

Use this list to help you navigate through this active stage of labour.  Remember you are strong.