The Latent Phase of Labour

birth story

A friend of mine was due with her second baby yesterday. She had a show last Tuesday (almost two weeks ago) and was told she was in the latent phase of labour. The midwife felt baby would be here that weekend, but alas she is now a day overdue and still waiting. Fortunately she has lots of family support and has been able to fully embrace offloading her son for a few hours here and there, and resting up. She’s in a good head space and knew all about the latent phase through friends who have regaled her with their birth stories over the years.

Do you know what the latent phase of labour is? 

The first time I heard those three words were when I was in early labour with my four year old. Already a few days overdue, the contractions came and went throughout the Monday night and were pretty intense all day Tues. When the midwife came that evening she checked me over and advised us that I was 3cm dilated. Her opinion: baby would be here by morning. On the Friday (three days later) I was checked by another midwife who told us I was STILL 3cm dilated!

latent phase of labour

Apparently the latent phase could go on for days, weeks even, but hubby and I were beside ourselves. Not only was I now a week overdue in the height of the hottest summer in years and very uncomfortable, but he had started his paternity leave on the Tuesday and we had wasted almost a week of it. Luckily it turned out we didn’t have too much longer to wait. After trying several of the getting labour started tricks (as difficult to achieve as it was bedroom magic worked for us), our darling firstborn finally arrived on the Saturday afternoon.

I’ve written about her birth in detail here. The headlines are that she came into the world via a gory forceps delivery under the supervision of an amazing doctor who was determined for her birth to not be a c-section. I can’t fault her work in the slightest and remain eternally grateful to her. Although there were many of them my stitches healed up within a couple of weeks, the sign of a true expert from what I hear.

latent phase of labour

I hate to admit it, but second time around I got totally caught up in the hype again. Stories of baby number two coming so quickly the parents didn’t make it to the hospital were being bandied around and futilely got my hopes up. I was convinced she would be on time or a little early, but she ended up being later than her sister. I had a sweep on my due date and was told I was 3cm dilated. The midwife explained this was nothing to get excited about, because apparently after you’ve given birth it’s possible that your cervix never fully close up. Who knew? I was probably in the latent phase for a whole month, but only told hubby to stay off work at 40+12 when I lost the mucus plug first thing in the morning. Our second baby girl was delivered within 12 hours, naturally at the birthing centre by three utterly fabulous midwives. It was a much nicer experience this time round, helped immensely by not having a single stitch afterwards.

As for the third time – well I’m trying not to think about it to be honest. Ce la vie and all that. I do know one thing though: if someone DARES to mention the latent phase of labour, they are likely to be met with a very cold hard stare…and possibly a poke in the eye!!

21 thoughts on “The Latent Phase of Labour

  1. You must have been wondering what on earth was happening! Nope you can’t control the little people, and really who’d want to? It would just destroy their personality.

  2. I was totally confused by the waters breaking. You know the word “breaking” makes you think it’s going to be more dramatic. I thought this couldn’t be it, it must be something else (duh… like what else exactly?? But that’s hindsight for you.)

    You can’t control too much of what babies or children do!

  3. My waters were broken by the MW with both of mine right before full dilation, but I can imagine it was a really weird sensation for you to feel them trickling out. Although scary it must have been great to have your second daughter came into the world so fast. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a similar experience third time round! I’m trying not to think about it too much if I’m honest, what will be will be. One thing I’ve learnt is that you can’t control when or how babies are born, they decide all by themselves.

  4. I think it was longer than that for the first but it was very very weird because my waters broke very slowly in the morning and trickled out for hours and hours. About 6pm I started getting stronger pangs but then went to bed about 9pm! Thought it would be hours more. Was woken at 2am by strong labour pains, rushed to hospital and baby was out by 4.30am.

    Second was even quicker, again woken at 2am by labour pains and out by 3.30. That was very scary.

    I look back and think my body was young and strong then… don’t think I could do it so easily now!

    As you say, I could never have planned in my head for such a topsy turvy birth.

  5. Oh wow 12 hours start to finish for a first baby is great 🙂 Did your second come out even quicker? Birthing is an experience that you will just never be able to get your head around until it’s happening… probably best what way. No good can come of sitting around thinking about it too much!!

  6. I think the problems occur when expectant mums get their hopes up, but actually if baby isn’t quite ready to come out and play then we should just be a little more patient. I’m going to try and be more relaxed third time round, even if he ends up being two weeks late xx

  7. I’ve had 4 children and had never heard the term latent phase before, I’m pretty sure looking back I was in it for weeks with my first born! I hope #3 behaves and doesn’t have you waiting too long! xx

  8. You’ve brought back all the agonies of waiting. It’s such a big thing with your first – I remember thinking HOW is it going to come out of me and being amazed that of course so many people had managed it before me. It was about 12h between waters breaking – they just sort of leaked out of me – and proper labour starting and I couldn’t believe how long that felt.

    Poor you!

    Hope your next post will be a happy birth one.

  9. I love the way that each baby’s labour is so different – just as each child is filled with different personalities. Good luck with the wait and hopefully your friend has their little bundle to cuddle soon x

  10. No-one would dare mention it to you, would they?! How frustrating. My daughter was a day early and my son was a planned C-Section so not been through it, but have had several friends who have – extremely frustrating! Best of luck to your friend x

  11. You’re better off not knowing!! It’s like being told there’s a delicious freshly baked cake in front of you but you’re not allowed to eat it yet…

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