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What's the actual definition of 'active labour'?

(61 Posts)
Shootthemoon Wed 03-Dec-14 13:14:21

I'm always really interested in threads where people take about how long they were in labour, but I can't help but wonder if people are including different stages in their estimates.

How long was your labour, and at what point did you class yourself as 'in labour'? And is there an actual medical definition?

My waters didn't go until I was pushing, so that can't be it. And I went into rapid contractions from the word go - though the MW told me on the phone that I couldn't possibly be in active labour as I wasn't making enough noise. (I was at 8cm) hmm. Do some people count it from when they are assessed and a MW confirms that it is indeed active labour?


GotToBeInItToWinIt Wed 03-Dec-14 13:22:22

On my notes it says I was in active labour for 8 hours, I.e from when I went into hospital and a midwife examined me and said I was 5cm until DD was born. However I had been having excruciating contractions at least every 10 mins for 40 hours prior to that! So I say I was in slow labour for 48 hours, but active labour for 8. Which doesn't help you much I guess!

WhyOWhyWouldYou Wed 03-Dec-14 13:35:18

I think most people talk about it from when they first get regular contraction pain. Medically active labour is from 4cm dilated - usually recorded as active labour in notes once a midwife has assessed you as being 4cm (or more).

Shootthemoon Wed 03-Dec-14 13:36:16

That's the baffling thing though isn't it GotToBe - as if only an official medical note authenticates the experience of labour! By that count I would be only four hours in labour (and pushing for quite a lot of it!) which completely overlooks the fact that I was very successfully labouring at home for a few hours too.

Ouch to 48 hours though shock

Shootthemoon Wed 03-Dec-14 13:37:43

whyowhy that makes sense to me, and I know that the MWs have to start somewhere.

Does everyone else have copies of their notes or something? I have never seen mine!

EarthDays Wed 03-Dec-14 13:40:24

My waters went 24 hours before I actually went into labour. I woke up in the morning, and it was strong contractions every 1-2 mins from the moment I woke up, I had my daughter 6 hours later.

Shootthemoon Wed 03-Dec-14 13:43:10

earthdays it's a shock to wake up contracting, isn't it? That's how it started for me - waking up from a nap to a big contraction then very regular from that point onwards. The MW on the phone told me not to come in so by the time we did get in the car I was having cx for one minute on, one minute off.

That was a fun journey.

EarthDays Wed 03-Dec-14 13:54:56

Yes, I was very freaked out by how fast they were coming as I was lead to believe they ramped up over time, but they started fully ramped!

I had my daughter at home, so luckily for me the midwife came straight out with the gas and air! I could barely move I don't know how women manage a trip in a car to the hospital, not a great experience I bet!

Theyvallgone Wed 03-Dec-14 14:00:24

Early labour can last days/weeks! And can be painful, a lot of women start to count the hours from here ...

Active labour is diagnosed when you are having 3-4 strong contractions every 10 minutes, combined with an effaced cervix dilated to at least 4cm or more smile you wouldn't usually actively labour for more than 24 hours (at a push!!)

ShootTheMoon Wed 03-Dec-14 14:05:21

theyveallgone now that is a definition I can get behind - thank you grin By that definition, probably only five hours or so for me.

EarthDays ooh, home birth, lovely! I try not to think about that car journey, or the waiting around in the MW unit for about 30 minutes while they got to grips with the new computer system and entered my details. On the flip side it was brilliant to be told I was so far along by the time I actually was examined! But I missed the only birthing pool by about 15 minutes and was cursing the delay at that stage.

polarbearshuffle Wed 03-Dec-14 14:17:11

I was in labour 42 hours from my first contraction till birth. But on my notes my "active labour" was 16 hours. However I was in a lot of pain for every one of those 42 hours so as far again concerned 16 hours is a load of rubbish! grin I think active labour is 4 cm onwards? But I might be wrong.

GotToBeInItToWinIt Wed 03-Dec-14 14:21:44

Yeah I find myself quite annoyed that my notes say I was only in labour for 8 hours when I was in so much pain for much longer smile. I know it doesn't really matter in the grand scheme if things but still irritating!

RainyLion Wed 03-Dec-14 14:33:36

The bit that bloody hurts

ShootTheMoon Wed 03-Dec-14 14:53:37

polarbear - ouch. Wow. I think I'd want to count it too! I had been having Braxton Hicks from 25 weeks, and regular, rhythmic BHs for a good ten days or so. I was overdue but hadn't had a sweep or been examined, so I do wonder a bit if I started the day already a bit dilated. Who knows!

ThinkIveBeenHacked Wed 03-Dec-14 15:01:38

ActiveLabour - 4cms +
I went into hospital with dc2 at 8.30am, was two cms. By 9.30am I was saying I couldnt cope with cxns so was taken to the delivery ward. Re examined at 10am and was 7cms so my "active labour" started then. He arrived at 10.22am so technically 22 mins, however my contractions started at 6am.

DayLillie Wed 03-Dec-14 15:09:27

It is supposed to be when you are 4 cms dilated. My first, I was 'not dilated at all' and having contractions every 3 mins and was told it would settle down. Had DS 2 hours later.

The next time, I had managed to get into hospital with early twins, despite the midwife on the phone saying to wait until 9am, and thank goodness I was over 4 cms. It was contractions every 3 minutes again. The hospital staff were not ready to deliver them, again, but thank goodness DH was on the ball! They arrived at 7.30am, the usual time hmm

Mammanat222 Wed 03-Dec-14 15:37:04

I was in early labour for 36h, I basically count it from when it started to fucking hurt a lot

Was 5cm when I went in, so in "active" labour and it was still another almost 15 hours until I delivered the baby.

I bloody did it though, not quite sure how??

3littlefrogs Wed 03-Dec-14 15:42:21

Labour = regular contractions accompanied by cervical dilatation.

bouncinbean Wed 03-Dec-14 15:59:04

My labour started when the contraction woke me up and was bloody agony. From that point till DD was born I count as labour and was 60 hours.
I thought active labour started about 18 hours later and we phoned and were told to go in, but once in and examined they decided that although the contractions were frequent because I wasn't dilated it wasn't actually active labour. So back home for an excruciating 24 hours of contractions every 10-12 minutes. Went back in and waters broke as I sat on the examination bed. Technically still not dilated - but in agony but I count 'active' from that point as they came thick and fast and it lasted 19 hours...
Do not want to repeat!!!

purplemurple1 Wed 03-Dec-14 16:02:09

I never had regular contractions so by that definition was I never in labour, if so I'd better give the kid back!

I was 3 to 4 cm the second time I went in to the hospital, at 11pm ands had him at 730. So 8.5hrs of what I thought was active labour.

MisAnneThropy Wed 03-Dec-14 16:28:05

Active labour my arse. My labour with DS was 63 hours in my book (latent stage of being 2cm dilated was a bugger and couldn't sleep through it) but only recorded as 4 hours on my notes, I was vair annoyed.

ShootTheMoon Wed 03-Dec-14 16:37:02

Woah - some very tough mamas out there!

sleeplessbunny Wed 03-Dec-14 16:37:07

This "active labour" bollocks really pisses me off. I was told you had to be 4cm to be "in labour". My arse. It's just some arbitrary number written in a book somewhere, every woman (and labour) is different.
With DS I was told by the MW to go home as I was only 2cm dilated so definitely not in labour confused despite contracting every 4 mins. I asked how I would know when to come back but she didn't seem to have an answer. I refused to go home and hung out in the corridor throwing up and went back in 40 mins later to deliver DS. So according to my notes I was never in active labour.
Have I said what a load of bollocks is it?

ChatEnOeuf Wed 03-Dec-14 17:10:25

I only managed about 40 minutes with DD - I was already 9cms when I pitched up to labour ward. The whole labour, active or not, was only about 6hrs though. Not sure I would fancy a three-four day one!

larryphilanddave Wed 03-Dec-14 17:26:24

My labour is recorded as 8.5 hours, which is the time from which I was admitted to the time DC was born. I was 3cm on admission, my waters broke (in a rather dramatic fashion) in the middle of the assessment unit so they admitted me straight away instead of waiting until 4cm. The fact is that the next time they examined me after admission I was 10cm anyway, so no one would know when at what point I was 4cm!

I count active labour as 12 hours, taking it from when contractions started to hurt (ie when I really felt like I was in labour) until birth. I consider the overall labour to be 24 hours, from the very first twinge until birth.

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