3.2.1  Assessing the progress of labour

Labours are all different. Some are fast, some are slow. This is normal. But in a healthy labour, there should be progress. Progress means that labour should be getting stronger and the cervix should be opening. Box 3.1 summarises the main features of a labour that is progressing normally.

A health worker reassures the mother that the contractions are getting stronger because the labour is going well.
Figure 3.6  Reassure the mother that contractions get stronger because the labour is going well.

Box 3.1  Gradual progress of normal labour

  • Contractions get longer, stronger and closer together.
  • The uterus feels harder when you touch it during a contraction (Figure 3.6).
  • Amount of ‘show’ increases.
  • The bag of waters breaks.
  • The mother burps, sweats and vomits, or her legs shake.
  • The mother feels she wants to push down through her lower abdomen.

In Study Session 4 you will learn how to use a chart called a partograph to assess the progress of labour and record your observations and measurements accurately. But first we are going to describe what happens in the woman’s body to introduce you to the important features that need to be assessed during labour.

3.2  Maternal and fetal monitoring during labour

3.2.2  Uterine contractions