The Latent Phase - Early Labour
Updated: Sep 13
The Latent Phase is the first stage of early labour, when it is time to say goodbye to pregnancy and start the journey to welcoming your child (or children) into your life. Most women describe this phase as the most annoying phase of labour overall.
Why is that so?
Right at the beginning of labour, the latent phase will probably be the longest phase of all. Some women already feel the unregular contractions during this time, particularly first time mothers. Other women don't feel the pain right away.
The latent phase attracted researchers attention just quite recently. For a long time, it was not considered part of the actual labour time. It can take from 8 to 20 hours, also everything longer or shorter is ok. The duration varies a lot among women, researches and books.
Alongside the duration, also the progress of birth is taken into account to measure labour time in total. So let's have a look at what happens during the latent phase with your body.
The unregular contractions soften the tissue, shorten the cervix, prime the pelvic floor muscles by increasing the blood flow and prepare the baby for the upcoming challenge. In some cases, they also bring the cervix more to the "front" of the birth canal and it dilates already.
As you can see, this phase is very important, useful and should be considered part of birth, right? Well, that is what the latest studies also suggested after researchers showed the importance of the preparation time.
So why does it still not count as active labour time?
In modern obstetrics, we have a lot of guidelines that we have to follow during labour, especially while giving birth in a hospital. After a certain time of active labour, we know that the baby has problems maintaining and mobilizing energy reserves to conquer the obstacles that are yet to come. That is why we, as in we medical professionals, have to intervene with mother nature to either help the becoming mother or the baby.
Since the latent phase is so different for every woman, it is hard to compare and record. But because the length differs so much with everyone experiencing it, there is no way to issue a guideline for a "right" duration of the latent phase which means, it should not be included in active labour time, to avoid too much and too early interventions. Birth, as we all know, should be accompanied by natural means, as long as possible.
The latent phase is the perfect preparation for birth, and as important as any other phase. If you want to know more about the signs and things that help during the latent phase, leave a comment and subscribe!
Stay safe, stay healthy and remember: it's not pain, but power!
your midwife Sarah