Q: I know that obviously it varies greatly from woman to woman, but I was curious as to how long a typical, completely natural labor is in duration. Is it measured from the first contraction to the end of the process?
A: Dear Arousiak, that is actually a great question. In some countries in Europe, labor begins at “Active Labor” or when contractions are regular, frequent and strong or at 4 cm of dilation. In the US, most women count their labor from the first contraction. The range of normalcy in labor and birth is huge. For example, a woman who has a 4 hour labor, is not common, but normal. On the same note, the woman who gets the 4 day labor is not common, but normal.
But to make it simple, most first time mothers labors, starting from first contraction are in average 24 hours. But before you think this is too long, remember that the longest phase of labor is Early Labor which can last for more than 12 hours and in Early Labor, most women can eat, rest, walk and even sleep in between contractions and most do not experience any discomfort.
I hope this helped.
all the best,
Ana Paula Markel ICCE, CD(DONA)
Certified Doula, Certified Childbirth Educator
DASC Director of Public Relations