The initiation of labour at term gestation: physiology and practice implications

Hundley, Vanora, Downe, Soo orcid iconORCID: 0000-0003-2848-2550 and Buckley, Sarah J. (2020) The initiation of labour at term gestation: physiology and practice implications. Best Practice & Research Clinical Obstetrics & Gynaecology, 67 . pp. 4-18. ISSN 1521-6934

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Little is known about the physiology of labour onset at term, and there is a debate about what signs and symptoms should be used to define it. In low resource settings and, particularly, for remote and rural communities, delay in recognising labour onset may mean a delay in seeking a skilled birth attendant. This chapter presents the most recent evidence about the physiology of labour onset, including the complex neuro-hormonal, biophysical, psychological and emotional factors that contribute. The symptoms of labour onset are explored from the perspective of both pregnant women and service providers in a range of sociocultural contexts. Early labour presents challenges for pregnant women, their families, communities and health care professionals. The chapter discusses how maternity care services should be designed, and delivered to ensure that women get the optimum advice and care at the beginning of labour.

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