A normal labour has the following characteristics:
- Spontaneous onset (it begins on its own, without medical intervention)
- Rhythmic and regular uterine contractions
- Vertex presentation (the 'crown' of the baby's head is presented to the opening cervix, as you learned in Study Session 6 of the Antenatal Care Module)
- Vaginal delivery occurs without active intervention in less than 12 hours for a multigravida mother and less than 18 hours for a primigravida (first birth)
- No maternal or fetal complications.
Any type of labour that deviates from these conditions is considered abnormal, and usually requires referral for specialist care. You will learn how to deal with different types of abnormal labour later in this Module in Study Sessions 8-11. Next, we describe the signs that tell you and the mother that true labour has begun.