It is a preparation phase, in which the mother’s tissues prepare for the passage and exit of the baby. Overall, it can last from a few hours to a few days: it is difficult to know when it starts, because it is not always characterized by precise signals.
Sometimes it even goes unnoticed, while in many cases it is accompanied by preparatory contractions, which are quite irregular and more or less intense, but bearable. «Initially, the contractions can occur with a certain cadence, stop for a few hours and then resume, especially at night. They are generally similar to menstrual pain “explains Sonia Brugali, midwife at the Pesenti-Fenaroli Hospital in Alzano Lombardo (BG).
“These contractions can be combined with other signals that warn that something is changing” continues the midwife. “For example, you lose the mucous plug (a gelatinous substance that, just like a plug, closes the cervix) and you may have some episodes of dysentery or feel a sense of exhaustion”.
WHAT’S GOING ON
Gradually, the cervix flattens, shortening and thinning, until it takes on the appearance of a thin disc. To convey the idea, the uterus, which initially has the shape of an inverted pear, takes the shape of an orange, which allows to start the dilation.
Second half – The dilating phase of childbirth
It is the beginning of actual labor, the moment in which people usually go to the hospital, and it is distinguished from the prodromal period by the type of contractions, which become more painful and regular. We talk about actual labor when the contractions occur roughly every five minutes and last around 40-60 seconds.
“If the labor is physiological, it is not necessary for the hospitalized mother to go to the labor room or the delivery room” suggests Brugali. “She can safely stay in the room and do everything that allows her to facilitate dilation, relieve pain and distract herself: often change position, walk, swing against a large ball (in the hospital there are more and more often), take a shower or a bath, put a hot water bottle on your back, listen to music “.
And again: “If she wishes, the woman can take sugary drinks or foods, such as chocolate or biscuits, which give energy – even to the child – and are not contraindicated even in the case of a caesarean, since local anesthesia is almost always practiced. -regional”.
As for the duration of this phase, there are no certainties: the times are very variable from woman to woman and depend on various factors. These include, for example, maternal characteristics, such as the physical structure and shape of the birth canal (but also psychological components), fetal characteristics, such as size, place of birth and methods of assistance. In other words, how labor is experienced can also affect how long it lasts.
In general, however, according to the English guidelines for physiological childbirth, the duration of labor until the expulsive phase should not exceed 18 hours at the first birth, which drops to 12 in the case of subsequent children.