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First Stage of Labour - Active Phase


pregnant woman sitting cross-legged touching her belly

During the active phase of first-stage labour you may feel serious, quiet and introspective. You might be thinking about yourself and your baby and wondering if you can cope with contractions.

As they become stronger and more uncomfortable, you'll likely find yourself in need of calm, quiet support.

Active First Stage Labour Signs

  • Contractions may be moderate in strength, coming every three to five minutes and lasting 45-60 seconds.
  • Show may become heavy, dark and bloody.
  • Cervix continues to open.
  • Baby’s head continues to move down into pelvis. 
  • Healthcare provider monitors fetal heart rate every 15-30 minutes or more often if necessary.



Tips for you and your support person

  • Find positions that are most comfortable. Try to keep moving between contractions. If you're tired, rest. 
  • Use relaxation techniques.
  • Continue slow and light breathing or use your preferred breathing techniques
  • Concentrate on one contraction at a time.
  • Sip fluids between contractions or suck on ice chips.
  • Pee frequently.
  • Have a warm shower while sitting on a chair or leaning on your partner.

Labour Partners

  • Reassure her she's doing a great job.
  • Wipe her forehead with cool cloths.
  • Offer small sips of fluid between contractions.
  • Look into her eyes and help her focus during her contractions. 

When to call your doctor or midwife:

  • When your contractions are regular and uncomfortable, usually three to five minutes apart and lasting 45-60 seconds.
  • If your water breaks or leaks.
  • If you have vaginal bleeding, or show (pink tinged vaginal mucus).
  • If your water leaks or breaks and the liquid is green, go to the hospital. Green means your baby has had a bowel movement. This may happen for no reason. It may also happen if your baby has been stressed or is in a breech position. 
  • If you are uncomfortable staying at home.
  • If you have been advised to call for other reasons.

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Last Updated: August 11, 2013