The length of labor can vary greatly from woman to woman and even from pregnancy to pregnancy. The average length of labor for a first-time mom can range from 12 to 24 hours, but it is not uncommon for labor to last longer. The average length is typically longer for a first-time mom than for women who have given birth before, because the cervix needs to dilate from a closed position to 10 centimetres to allow the baby to pass through the birth canal.
Several factors can influence the length of labor for a first-time mom, including the size and position of the baby, the woman’s age and health, the strength and frequency of contractions, and the use of interventions such as induction or augmentation. Additionally, the woman’s pain management preferences can affect the length of labor. Pain management techniques, such as epidurals, can slow down labor and make it longer.
Most women experience the following three stages of labor.
- First stage - The first stage starts when labor begins and ends with full cervical dilation and effacement, when your cervix begins to thin out in preparation for childbirth. You will experience strong, regular contractions which open your cervix and move your baby into position for birth. This stage ends when your cervix dilates up to 10 centimetres. For first-time moms, this stage of labor is the longest. You may experience a 12 to 24 hour long first stage.
- Second stage/Active labor: The second stage of labor begins once the cervix is fully dilated and the baby starts to move down the birth canal. This stage typically lasts between 30 minutes to two hours for a first-time mom. Your contractions will now become regular, stronger, and more painful. During this stage, the woman will experience an urge to push. You may experience abdominal or lower-back pain, and you will be taken to a hospital.
- Third stage – The third stage of labor is the delivery of the placenta and typically takes only a few minutes. After the placenta is delivered, the healthcare team will monitor the mother and baby for any complications.
It’s important to note that the length of labor is not the only factor that determines a successful delivery. What matters most is the safety and well-being of both the mother and the baby. Women should work closely with their healthcare provider to develop a birth plan that meets their individual needs and preferences and should trust their bodies to progress through labor at their own pace.