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Early Labor

After the membranes rupture and the water breaks, a woman may begin to experience the first phase of labor (early labor). The average time of early labor is extremely variable, lasting from hours to days. It is more common for the first phase of labor to begin before the membranes rupture. During this time, the pressure of repeated regular contractions causes the cervix, which may have been closed when labor began, to open up to a diameter of 4 centimeters while becoming much thinner. Various techniques can be used to help alleviate the discomfort a woman may experience during the first phase of labor such as back-rubs and breathing exercises.

Early Labor

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Review Date: 7/4/2019

Reviewed By: John D. Jacobson, MD, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Loma Linda University School of Medicine, Loma Linda Center for Fertility, Loma Linda, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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