34. Labour and monitoring of fetal well-being
By Dr Joe Kabyemela, MD
The word "normal" has the unattractive but ultimately necessary connotation of being restrictive. For labour, what is normal encompasses a broad and quite varied picture. A woman whose contractions start and then she goes on to deliver after four hours without needing pain relief or an episiotomy has had a normal labour.
Her opposite number could have four hours of latent labour (with nothing tangible happening, other than increasing low backache and irregular contractions), ten hours of first-stage labour and two hours of second-stage labour. This will also be normal labour. In the process, she may also have covered the gamut of pain relief, from using Entonox ("gas and air") through multiple doses of Pethidine, culminating in the "epidural" being inserted. At delivery, the midwife may have applied an episiotomy. This is still a very normal labour.
Needless to say, the experiences of labour narrated by the two women will be very different.
The aim of this section is to describe broadly what labour involves and to define the acceptable degrees of departure from that picture which will still fall within the confines of normality.