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Dim question: how do you count how long your labour was?

(26 Posts)
Wylye Sat 15-Jun-13 20:51:11

Sorry to ask such a dim question, but I really can't figure it out!
People often ask how long my labour was, but I never know when to count it from - first contractions? 4cm dilated?? 8cm? confused
When people say they had 37hr labour etc, are they counting the whole thing from waters breaking, or from the mid wife's official 'start'?

My waters broke on Tuesday morning, admitted to Hospital as 35+5
Contractions started Wednesday night, 10/11pm
3cm dilated at 2/3am
Taken down to labour ward 6am
DS born at 12:24pm Thursday smile

Just searched out my official notes, and they say;
Start of labour 08:40 (Thursday)
Full dilation 11:50
Baby delivered 12:24

Stage I minutes 10
Stage II minutes 34
Stage III minutes 22
Stage I total 190
Stage II total 34
Total time of delivery 246

So was it 4 hours? It was bloody painful for a long time before 8:40am! DS was back-to-back, and I was caning the G&A for a good long time before she said I was officially in labour! grin

confused Please and thank you!

AmandaCooper Sat 15-Jun-13 21:27:47

I think people generally mean from start to finish i.e. from first contraction to delivery. My notes said something similar to yours; when I queried it with my doula at our debrief she said the midwife just timed my labour from when she got round to starting writing my notes without reference to any actual physical events.

Wylye Sat 15-Jun-13 21:38:27

Ah, that kind of makes sense, thanks for replying.
Wish I could remember the actual time my contractions started! It was just backache for aaages, then I started timing them when they were about 5 mins apart.
The midwife said I had a pretty fast labour for a first timer, so I assumed she meant the 4 hour bit.

Ah well! I guess I'll call it a 12-14 hour labour then!

AmandaCooper Sat 15-Jun-13 21:42:50

Midwives are supposed to measure it from when you are first in active labour aren't they though; they're not supposed to write down whatever random time they happen to pick their pen up!

slightlysoupstained Sat 15-Jun-13 21:45:36

I didn't actually notice my first contractions, I went in for a checkup & they had me on a monitor & pointed out that I seemed to be having the occasional contraction. Was 2cm at that point.

I counted from when I woke up from my nap after getting home. Sounds like I should have been counting from earlier.

TheOrchardKeeper Sat 15-Jun-13 22:21:53

I don't know how long i was in labour as i mistook productive convictions for fake ones! I count it from when i realized they were 5 mins apart and my plug went.

Yes, i feel a bit silly!

TheOrchardKeeper Sat 15-Jun-13 22:22:30


Bloody phone

LondonBus Sat 15-Jun-13 22:26:38

I was once told it was from when you are first administered pain relief. hmm

HSMMaCM Sat 15-Jun-13 22:27:24

1st contraction 4pm, 2nd contraction10pm, DD born 1am. So ...either 9 hrs or 3hrs? But I think I should have been allowed to push before midnight, so probably less really.

Wylye Sat 15-Jun-13 23:33:08

If it's related to the plug going then it's bloomin ages! IIRC my plug went on Wednesday afternoon. confused

LondonBus Ha! In that case my sis managed to have her DCs 2 & 3 without going into labour... grin Wish Hypnobirthing had worked as well for me.

LauraPashley Sat 15-Jun-13 23:37:24

If it relates to waters breaking then I am clearly still in labour with both dds grin, I never had that big dramatic moment. I have often wondered this, was having contractions at home all day with dd2, but was still going about a relatively normal day, so wouldn't say I was in labour?

Wylye Sun 16-Jun-13 00:16:26

Ha - I was expecting waters breaking to be a non-event as everyone says "It's not like in the movies you know", then yes, mine went with a big gush. A month early. shock

Bunbaker Sun 16-Jun-13 00:23:12

Mine was easy to determine. I went from nothing to my waters breaking at 2 pm and contractions staring straight away. By the time I got to hospital they were only a few minutes apart. DD was born at 8 pm exactly, so my labour lasted 6 hours precisely.

RikeBider Sun 16-Jun-13 00:25:58

Midwives count it from active labour (4cm?) but generally people mean from when you first started having painful/regular contractions. So 3 days of occasional cramps/contractions doesn't mean a 3 day labour, but if your contractions started 11pm and you gave birth midday the next day, then you can tell people you had a 13 hour labour I think.

rallytog1 Sun 16-Jun-13 08:32:18

My hospital counted from when you're 4cm dilated, ie in active labour. They said I was in labour for 14 hours.

However, I choose to count it from the moment my waters spontaneously went with a bang during induction, which started full-blown contractions from nothing and had me writhing around on the assessment room floor screaming for an epidural. If anyone wants to tell me I wasn't in labour at that point I'll happily punch them in the face. I count it as 27 hours by the way.

Given that you're the one who has to do labour, I think you're entitled to count it from whenever you want to!

Orangebirdonatable Sun 16-Jun-13 08:35:47

I am confused too. I felt pains at 8, went to the hospital at midnight, was checked and was only 2 cm, but knew I didn't want to leave. At 1:30, i had a bath, dd was born at 1:50 in the bathtub. My labour notes say 13 minutes, but I have no recollection of being checked again. I think he just made up a random number.

OrangeMochaFrappucino Sun 16-Jun-13 08:38:38

I didn't have any pain relief and my waters broke after I started pushing so did I have no labour at all or a 30 minute labour? I did ask the midwife, she said it was from the start of active labour - when the contractions got regular, lasted a minute etc which gave me a 5.5hrs labour. Though I was having irregular contractions for two nights before!

CoolaSchmoola Sun 16-Jun-13 08:49:58

I count it from active labour. I was induced and my waters went at 11.50pm on Thursday night after two days of pessaries, but only had light twinges til 5am Friday morning. They got a little more painful so the mw gave me two paracetamol and told me to have a bath, whereupon they stopped completely.

At 9am I was put on the drip, light twinges by 10am, drip turned up, bit stronger by 11am but still not awful. Drip cranked from 5 to 7 at 12pm, needed loo at 12.20, so mw and DH took me and my drip stand into the bathroom, had a wee and was about to leave when the most god awful horrific contraction hit out of nowhere and I desperately wanted to push. After that they just came one after the other with no gaps and DD shot out 40 minutes later.

So I count mine as 40 minutes. But as a result of her coming so fast I was stitched for an hour and a half with only gas and air as the local didn't work.

littleducks Sun 16-Jun-13 08:50:35

I think you can generally count from when you want it think it started. But as a word if warning u would quite the number on your notes to medical staff.

I had a long latent stage with first born dd (about 3 days). But only actually 3 hours from beginning of active labour to delivery if placenta so reasonably fast for a first baby.

Skip forward two years, I'm in bath in labour with ds and can feel the head move down. I ask dh to call an ambulance as hospital is minimum 20 mins drive away and there is no way I can make I'd down four flights of stairs to ground level walking. Operator thinks we are just trying to get a free ride as my waters haven't gone (dd was born in hers) and it really didn't help when she asked how long I had been in labour with dd and dh said "oh days and days" shock. Luckily he managed to persuade her that I needed someone ASAP and ambulance came and ds was born within ten minutes of them arriving.

littleducks Sun 16-Jun-13 08:51:21

Aah, stupid phone 'you should quote'

VivaLeBeaver Sun 16-Jun-13 08:55:29

Active labour is counted as been 4cm dilated with regular contractions.

So yesterday the woman I was looking after was 3cm when she came in - so not in active labour.

I didn't examine her again throughout her labour so obviously had to pick a time to put on the computer as when labour did begin. So I went with the time she asked for analgesia. Even if she hadn't asked for analgesia I'd have picked approx. that time anyway as it was obvious from how she was that things were hotting up.

mayhew Sun 16-Jun-13 14:32:56

This is a bugbear of mine. Women time their labour from when they think something significant is happening until a baby comes out. This is reasonable. This can stop and start and is often not linear in the way described in textbooks. Mws also add on the time until the placenta is delivered.

Mws often avoid calling the start of labour (ie "active labour") because then hospital protocols about progress start to rain down which many mws feel actually are more of a hindrance than a help in normal birth. In addition, some mws only time a labour from when they have personally assessed a woman, so disregard anything before on the grounds they didn't see it!

I do few vaginal examinations in my practice. I am confident assessing a woman in other ways. Some guess work is involved where I consult with the woman on when they think things really got going. And then when they thought they really started second stage.

Wylye Mon 17-Jun-13 00:38:51

Thank you everyone for your responses, it makes a lot more sense now!
I reckon then that I had a 4 hour active labour, but 13 hours in total.

mayhew it's interesting to hear about how you all work, it makes total sense to avoid starting that escalation.
I actually requested a couple of examinations while I was in labour as the MWs didn't think I was as far along as I was each time. Might have been because I was pretty quiet, but when I got to the point where I couldn't hack it anymore and mentioned an epidural, they said "Oh you've got hours to go yet", I asked them to check, then told me I was fully dilated and ready to push. Thank goodness, I only coped because the end was in sight! grin


BumbleBee2011 Mon 17-Jun-13 16:27:27

This is interesting to me as I was "in labour" from Saturday night with DD1, and she was born Monday morning. I knew something was happening, went to bed, then by 1am on Sunday couldn't sleep through the contractions anymore. Spent all Sunday in a kind of limbo which I now know was not active labour, contractions kept coming closer together then further apart, not unbearable though I couldn't really rest through it that much, I even went for a walk in the afternoon to try and speed things up!

Cut to 7am Monday morning when the midwives at the local MLU told me over the phone I could come in for a check (I was a little fed up by then grin) but they might have to send me home as I didn't sound too far along. Turns out she was crowning when I walked in there, I was still so calm they'd sat me in a corner and started reading my notes and running the water for the birthing pool...needless to say they quickly turned the taps off and DD practically shot out before the gloves were on!

So "officially" I have no idea how long I was in labour (not even sure when my waters broke, I was probably in the bath), but I didn't sleep for 2 nights so that's what I'm counting...

I'm now 39 wks with DD2 and booked for a homebirth as I've decided I'm really not very good at judging labour, and don't fancy giving birth in the car grin

Stixswhichtwizzle Mon 17-Jun-13 20:28:02

When I got to hospital I was 5cm. I laboured for 16 hrs then had c-section.

My midwife came to do a sweep the morning I went in and I'd been having contractions the day before. She checked and I was 4-5cm then started hospital admittance etc.

I count my labour from there so 19hrs to c-section. Non-active but bloody ouchy bit adds another 24hrs (Dd was back to back!)

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