It's been a while since I've done any childbirth ed posts, and one that was kind of left swinging in the breeze was the Stages of Labor. I talked about latent phase labor here, so go ahead and review if you want. This post will be about active phase labor.
Remember the whole phase/stage thing? It's fairly confusing. There are 3 stages of labor (4 counting the postpartum period) and within the first stage of labor are the 3 phases. Latent phase is the first, active phase follows.
Active phase labor is when things really pick up. Latent phase labor is the longest phase, typically, and once a woman reaches the active phase things really move along. Here are some signs that active phase has kicked in:
- Suddenly contractions become so intense that talking and breathing becomes very difficult.
- When a contraction occurs, hearing other people talk can get annoying and you need to tell them to shut up.
- Contractions become closer together and longer in duration.
I think active labor is appropriately named; not only does this stage start picking things up and becoming "active", I think it's the phase to stay active. Walk, use a tub or jacuzzi, get on a birth ball, find different positions to use during contractions. This is also the time when providers offer pain medications and epidurals (some will offer it sooner). Discussion of that in itself is several posts, so I won't go into that much now. However, pain medications and epidurals can slow a labor pattern down. This can become problematic if cervical dilation stops, and it opens up a whole can of worms. And for others these things don't effect labor. But we can never predict who is going to have their labor affected by an epidural or pain medication, so no one can advise you one way or another if you are basing your decision on that factor.