Before we delve into when to call during labour, let's address the concept of "normal length times of labour." While textbooks divide labour into stages and phases, it's crucial to remember that every woman's journey through childbirth is unique. Even if you've given birth before, each experience can be vastly different.
The first stage of labour involves uterine regular and coordinated contractions, along with cervical dilatation(expansion). This stage consists of three phases: latent, active, and transitional.
The second stage begins when the cervix is fully dilated (open) and ends when the baby is fully expelled from the birth canal. This stage also has three phases: latent, active, and perineal.
The third stage encompasses the time from the baby's birth to the delivery of the placenta and membranes, concluding with the control of bleeding. Medical practitioners often reference Emanuel Friedman's curve, suggesting that a first-time mother should dilate at a rate of 1 cm per hour, while a mother who has given birth before should dilate at 1.2 cm or more per hour.
However, it's essential to recognize that this model views the natural process of birth and a woman’s body as if it were a machine rather than taking into account the individuality of each woman and their birthing experiences.
In reality, applying a graph to the complexity of childbirth is nonsensical. Labour stages often go out the window when you're in the midst of it, and no two births are alike. My belief is that the best way to gauge your progress is by tuning in with yourself and having a strong support team (which if you've been following my content for a while, you, too, know this by now:p)
Now, returning to the question of when to call during labour:
When you first notice signs like loose bowels, mild cramping, or a bloody show, take the opportunity to rest, especially if it's nighttime. Sleep if you can, then when sleep eludes you, focus on eating and staying hydrated. Preparing your body is crucial because childbirth is not a sprint, it's a marathon.
Midwives/Doulas will welcome your call anytime, that's what they are there for, to support you. However a good indicator of when things are progressing/time to call is when your contractions are consistently coming every 4 minutes, lasting 1 minute for 1 hour, or if you find it challenging to communicate during contractions.
Reflecting on my own experiences:
Every birth is unique. Personally, both times I experienced loose bowels and mild cramping between midnight and 4 am. On both occasions, I woke my husband out of sheer excitement and as a standby support. I tried my best to rest, hydrate, and eat to prepare for the journey. When I couldn't sleep anymore, I began monitoring my contractions to determine when to call my healthcare provider.
During my first birth, I waited until it was uncomfortable to drive to the birth center, and my daughter arrived within the next three hours.
In my second birth, I called my birth attendant and doula right away, thinking things would progress rapidly due to it being my second child. However, it didn't move as fast as expected, and they were there with me for 12 hours. In hindsight, I was grateful for their continuous support, as my daughter's face presentation made it an intense experience throughout.
Ultimately, it all comes down to intuition and asking yourself, "What do I and my baby need right now?"
You’ve got this, mama!