If it is your first baby generally the cervix will dilate half a centimetre every hour, this is quicker if you have had a baby before. 

If your labour can sometimes be slower than expected it can be due to two main causes: 

  • Your contractions are not coming often enough or aren't strong enough. 
  • Your baby is in an awkward position and needs to turn to a better position. 

If this is the case, your doctor or midwife may talk to you about two ways to speed labour up: breaking your waters or an oxytocin (hormone) drip. 

Breaking your waters

Breaking the membrane that contains the fluid around your baby (your waters) is often enough to make contractions stronger and more regular. This is also known as artificial rupture of the membranes (ARM).

Your midwife or doctor can do this by making a small break in the membrane with a small hook (an amnihook) during a vaginal examination. This will not harm your baby.

Oxytocin drip

If breaking your waters doesn't work, your doctor or midwife may suggest using a drug called oxytocin to make your contractions stronger. This is the hormone that naturally produced contractions.

Oxytocin is given through a drip that goes into a vein, usually in your wrist or arm.

Oxytocin can make contractions become stronger and more regular quite quickly, so your midwife will discuss pain relief options with you. You will also need electronic monitoring to check your baby is coping with the contractions and regular vaginal examinations to check the drip is working.