This is a very informative article and has lots of current statistics for the “average” labor and delivery in a hospital setting. I have been reading more and more articles about when “true/active labor” begins. The most recent article I read said that there is strong consideration to change that number from 3 or 4cm dilated to 6cm dilated, especially for first time mothers (the attached article touches on this, too). That is a BIG difference and honestly, from the mothers I have labored with, this is at least 50% true. Whether early labor is 2 hours or 2 days, it seems the fastest progress (in MANY scenarios) happens once a woman is at least 6cm. Sadly, in todays OB world, many women are not provided with the correct or current information about how their labor may begin or how long it may really take to get through that first phase. It is not uncommon for a woman to have prodromal labor, meaning she will have irregular contractions (some strong and far apart, some mild and close, resulting in little to no dilation) for a few days leading up to her delivery. Preparing a woman for that possibility and teaching her how to care for herself during that time is paramount if she does not want a C-Section.
Since this is the paradigm most OBs and hospitals are operating in, I feel this is where an experienced birth doula is so very helpful. OBs do not have time to educate their mothers and many childbirth education courses offered through our hospital system are geared towards an expectation of epidural, or other pain relief, as well as post-surgical recovery. This is not ideal for the woman who wants to have a natural birth. Doulas can help fill the holes in a family’s childbirth education, either during prenatal visits, or along the way to meeting the baby. They can help a woman labor at home before heading to the confinements of a hospital room and the distraction of the many rotating faces. Once there, they can keep the commotion to a minimum so the mother may focus on meeting her child.
I also believe that a doula can be very helpful in a home birth setting. If a woman has a longer labor, the midwife is able to rest more, allowing her to have a more clear mind during the last stages of labor and delivery. The doula can help keep the mother fed, hydrated, napped, and generally more prepared to endure active labor and the pushing phase when it finally crescendos into that mind blowing stage!
So…read up! Be informed! Get ready for the most life changing journey you will ever embark on! Be prepared for that journey to be long and be pleasantly surprised when it is short!