First stage of labour

The first stage of labour is usually the longest. If you've not been in labour before, it could last from 6-20 hours, while women who've already had one or more babies usually have a shorter first stage (2-10 hours). Everyone is different though, and your labour may be longer or shorter than the average. Read NCT's range of impartial information below.

First stage

Water is an effective source of pain relief in labour. Read our introduction to water in labour and birth, including birth pools and other ways of using water in labour.
What is birth like at a midwife-led unit or birth centre and what factors do you need to consider?
Hormones have an important role to play in labour and birth. Here we discuss what changes may affect you.
Where you have your baby can affect many aspects of your birth experience. Here we look at your options and how you can make an informed decision that’s right for you.
Find out what options you have for giving birth in your area
Straightforward birth means giving birth vaginally, without any procedures or interventions. Here we look at the advantages, and discuss how to encourage a straightforward birth.
Here we look at the early signs of labour, such as Braxton Hicks contractions, preparing for birth and when to call your midwife.
There are things you can do in pregnancy to make a straightforward birth more likely. Find out more in this article.
Most women like to have a birthing partner present with them when they give birth. Read more here about how a birth partner can support and encourage you during labour.
What’s the best way to arrange to use a birth pool in labour? Read our article for more information on arranging a home or hospital water birth.
What happens in the first stage of labour? Here we look what happens with your contractions and your cervix as well as what you and your partner might be feeling.
Giving birth can be easier if your baby is in a particular position in your pelvis: head pointing down and facing your back. However, they can be in other positions. This article...