Most people think of delivery and labor as a single process, but in reality it can be subdivided into several phases.
So, there are several labor phases. The early labor phase is called the latent phase. During the phase most women cannot define whether they are experiencing real labor or so called Braxton-Hicks contractions. It is rather a long phase but with a slow progress. Most women manage the contractions without a lot of difficulties. The contractions may last 30-60 seconds and may vary from 5 to 20 minutes apart. But this interval can differ. The phase may last about 8 hours for the first labors, but they can also be longer or shorter.
There are some symptoms that are common for this phase. You can have bloody discharge that is blood-tinged mucus. You can also experience membrane rupture. It can be caused by the gush or a slow leak of amniotic fluid. If you are at home and you are not sure whether your membranes have ruptured, it is recommended to call your practitioner. The contractions can be experienced in your abdomen or lower back. The feeling may be similar to menstrual cramping. Increased pelvic pressure can occur because of the baby's descent into the pelvis. It is possible to have increased vaginal discharge. Soft frequent stools are not an exception.
The active labor phase is the second of labor phases. During the phase the cervix is dilated for 4-5 centimeters. If you have reached this phase, it means that your cervix is going to dilate 1 centimeter every hour. The contractions are going to become more frequent with the interval of 2-5 minutes. Traditionally they last 45-60 seconds. The contractions in this phase are more intense and long. They require the higher level of control from the future mother. The contractions during the phase have a stronger and longer peak but a shorter rest period.
It is one of the labor phases which has the most difficult symptoms. You may have the continued blood discharge. If your membranes did not rupture, they can either rupture spontaneously or your practitioner will rupture them. It is possible to ask the practitioner to do that if your membranes have to be ruptured for some medical reasons or you wait for a spontaneous rupture. The contractions are usually less painful if there is amniotic fluid in the intact membranes. It acts as a cushion. If the membranes stay intact for the most labor phases, the labor is more manageable though longer. You may continue to experience pelvic pressure because the baby is descending into the pelvis. It is possible to have nausea and vomiting. You can perspire because of the increase stress and heart rate. There are a lot of women who have muscle tension all over their body. Fatigue increases as labor persists.
Transition is another of labor phases. During the phase the cervix dilates from 8 to 10 centimeters. It can happen very quickly. The contractions usually repeat every 2-3 minutes and last 60-90 seconds. They are rather intense and need much control. This phase is considered to be the most difficult part of the labor. Most women suffer from both emotional and physical symptoms because of the frequency and strength of the contractions.