The 3 stages of labor 81
Stage 1: The cervix opens
To make sure that labor is going well, check:
1. How long has the woman been having contractions and
how often do they come? At first, they may come every
10 or 20 minutes and last for a minute or less. After some
time they will come more quickly—about every 2 to 5
minutes—and each one will last longer, about a minute and
a half, until the baby is born. If she has had a contraction
every 10 minutes or faster for more than 12 hours and the
baby is not ready to be born, see ‘Too long labor’, page 86.
2. Have her waters broken? If they have, ask when. If it has
been more than a day, see ‘Waters break and labor does
not start in a few hours’, page 85. If the waters are green
or brown, see ‘Green or brown waters’, page 86.
3. Is the baby in a head-down position? Feel the mother’s
abdomen (see page 77). If the baby is sideways or breech,
you must take her to a health center or hospital.
You can also help the mother by reassuring her that
she is doing well and by encouraging her to:
• stay active.
• eat light foods, not heavy or
• drink as much sweet liquid and
warm tea as she wants.
• pass urine often.
• take deep, slow breaths during
contractions, and to breathe
normally between them.
• not push until she feels a strong
need to push (see page 82).
too long labor, 86
waters break and
labor does not start, 85
green or brown
checking the baby’s
Walking helps the womb
open. It can also make
the pain less and help
the mother feel calmer.
During labor, let the woman choose the most comfortable positions. For many
years, doctors and some midwives asked women to lie on their backs, but this
is often a difficult position for going through labor and giving birth. Encourage a
woman in labor to try different positions. Most women find it easier to push the
baby out when they are kneeling, squatting or sitting propped up.
Where Women Have No Doctor 2012