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Slow labour: symptoms, duration latent labour

Slow labor is characterized by contractions preparatory to labor. There may be early contraction, dilation of the cervix, expulsion of the mucous plug and rupture of the water.


  • What is slow labor

  • How to recognize slow labor

  • Signs of slow labor

  • Slow labor duration

  • Slow labor symptoms

  • Latent phase of labor contractions

  • How to relieve the pain of latent phase of labor contractions?

  • Latent labor, when to go to the hospital

  • Latent stage of labor in preterm pregnancy

Slow labour: symptoms, duration latent labour
Slow labour: symptoms, duration latent labour

What is slow labor

The emotion assails you, you take the delivery bag, the rush to the hospital, they visit you and the response is: "Well ma'am, there is some pre-delivery contraction but she's not in labor yet" At that moment the world collapses on you and you think "but as I'm not in labor I feel pain !!!" You are assailed by a thousand doubts:

  • Dilation 2 cm how long is missing from birth?

  • Breaking water without contractions?

  • Loss of mucous plug how long is missing?

  • Preparatory contractions or prodromal contractions?

Let's try to clarify how labor begins, especially in women who are in their first pregnancy.

How to recognize slow labor

My dear, we have all been through it, it all starts with a contraction, then another and then another and tac you think we are, the labor of childbirth has begun. Labor, especially in women who have never given birth, is preceded by a period called the latent phase or the prodromal phase. The prodromal period of labor is characterized by irregular contractions (similar to Braxton Hicks contractions) that are not very painful, light, felt in the lower abdomen and irregular, which are called preparatory contractions for childbirth. The emotion that women feel during this phase is happiness because labor is about to begin and soon you will get to know your baby. The feeling of enthusiasm is also visible in the partner and in the family in general. The prodromal symptoms are indispensable because they favor all those changes in the cervix that will trigger the actual labor. The prodromal phase is a waiting period with the presence of light and irregular contractile activity of the uterus. Precisely because of the uncertainty of the onset of labor some women experience the latent phase with a lot of anxiety because they do not know when the real contractions will begin, do not worry, however, the prodromal period is not infinite and slowly the contractions, which were previously irregular, begin to become more regular, more frequent and increase in intensity.

Signs of slow labor

Well dear mom, let's see how to recognize the contractions of the prodromal phase of childbirth. Contractile activity in the prodromal period of labor is characterized by the irregularity and inconstancy of uterine contractions. The contractions may occur for a few hours and then suddenly stop, and then resume after a few hours.

  • Prodromal contractions can start as light, painless contractions lasting 30 seconds and with a frequency of one contraction every 10-30 minutes, up to a duration of 30-40 seconds and a frequency of one contraction every 5-7 minutes. .

  • The uterine contraction is felt by the pregnant woman with the sensation that the belly suddenly becomes hard. The hardening of the belly lasts only a few seconds and can be more or less painful.

  • In this first phase of labor, the cervix flattens out becoming thin like an onion veil and slowly begins to dilate.

  • During the prodromal phase there may be loss of the mucous plug. Losing the mucous plug is certainly a sign that labor is near but regular contractions and cervical dilation are necessary to be defined as active labor.

For further information: loss of the mucous plug

Slow labor duration

The duration of the preparatory phase of labor is variable as it differs from woman to woman. There are women who have an almost invisible prodromal phase reporting only painful twitching and contractions similar to menstrual pain, other women instead have a longer prodromal period and perceive the preparatory contractions as very painful and lasting many hours. In this phase the membranes are normally intact but can rupture.

Spontaneous rupture of the membranes usually occurs at the height of an "intense contraction" with fluid leaking from the vagina.

For further information: breaking of the waters.

Slow labor symptoms

The prodromal phase cannot be defined as actual labor but a path that leads to the active phase of labor. The changes generated by the latent phase are:

  • loss of the mucous plug;

  • the presence of contractions;

  • in some cases the rupture of the membranes;

  • dilation of the cervix;

  • in some cases diarrhea;

  • backache.

Surely in the last weeks of pregnancy you will have experienced the feeling of hardening of the belly. This type of contraction is prodromal and serves to prepare the cervix for the active phase of labor. The preparatory contractions have well-defined characteristics in fact they almost always start as not very painful and sporadic becoming gradually more and more painful.

Latent phase and diarrhea

Diarrhea during the prodromal period could be confused with an intestinal problem, in reality very often it represents a signal that the birth is imminent. The cause of pre-birth diarrhea is the release into the maternal body of prostaglandins which serve to modify the cervix before actual labor starts. Prostaglandins therefore stimulate not only the prodromal phase of labor but also intestinal peristalsis causing diarrhea and frequent bowel movements.

Latent phase of labor contractions

  • Regularity of contractions. In the latent phase, the contractions are irregular but as you will find that they will become more and more frequent with a well-defined cadence, such as 1 contraction every 10 minutes.

  • The way the contraction spreads. The contraction from labor of childbirth starts from the top that is from the diaphragm, it extends for the whole body of the uterus to reach the neck of the uterus. This contraction pattern allows for a sort of squeezing of the uterus which allows the baby to advance into the birth canal. The preparatory contractions are light and perceived as a menstrual pain but more intense.

  • Intensity of contractions. The contractions of the latent phase are not painful but appear mostly as annoying. On the other hand, contractions from labor are very intense so as not to allow you to carry out any activity, moreover the intensity of the contractions is increasing

How to relieve the pain of latent phase of labor contractions?

After the initial enthusiasm, it is possible that anxiety and fear of giving birth take over. The most important thing is to try to stay calm and take advantage of the pauses between one contraction and the other to rest and gather strength. All positions can be assumed, perhaps using cushions for greater comfort. With your partner during contraction you can practice:

  • the antalgic positions to bear the pain;

  • relaxation exercises such as touching the contracted points;

  • belly and back massages;;

  • breathing exercises;

  • smell familiar and relaxing scents;

  • listen to music.

During the prodromal phase it is possible to eat light meals and drink water. It may be helpful to use a lollipop to combat dry mouth and to focus on it during contraction

Latent labor, when to go to the hospital

  • When the contractions become regular with 2 contractions every 10 minutes for at least 1 hour;

  • When the membranes rupture;

  • If there is blood loss;

  • When you have not perceived the movements of the fetus for several hours;

  • If you don't feel comfortable staying at home.

If the pre-birth contractions are perceived as very painful, close together, continuous and lasting all day, then it is always good to do an obstetric check-up.

Latent stage of labor in preterm pregnancy

From the 33rd week you may feel some pain, they are the preparatory contractions of Braxton Hicks, the belly hardens with a discomfort in the belly similar to the menstrual one that serves to prepare the uterus for labor. The prodromal phase must never occur in preterm pregnancy. The contractions must not be close and frequent, if during the day you feel 1 - 2, in principle there is no danger but if you have frequent and close pains it is necessary to make an obstetric visit in a short time to evaluate the dilation of the neck and the presence of the threat of preterm birth, prepare the delivery bag in order to be ready in case of an unexpected hospitalization.

Mammamather pocket obstetrician

To know more

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