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How Long Can You Stay 3cm Dilated? (Everything You Need To Know…)

Being pregnant and giving birth to a baby is one of the most exciting and nerve-wracking parts of motherhood. A lot of new moms walk into labor not knowing the different phases. I like to be over-prepared, so I know exactly what to expect and can keep calm.

When you are pregnant the cervix, which is the lower part of your uterus, will be fully closed. This helps to keep your baby protected. But once the baby starts moving down the birth canal, your cervix starts dilating.

The cervix is dilated through different phases until it reaches 10 cm. This is when you feel the urge to push and the baby comes out through the birth canal…

How Long Can You Stay 3cm Dilated?

Once your cervix is dilated to 3cm, you are in the active stage of labor. Women can stay in this stage anywhere from 8-12 hours. Gradually it opens from 3cm to 6cms at the rate of 1cm per hour.

But the actual dilation will be different for different pregnancies. This is the longest part of labor which can take a few hours to a few days time.

During this stage you will experience contraction that slowly becomes stronger. You will also notice vaginal discharge if this has not happened earlier. 

If you want to learn more about labor and dilation, keep reading…

How Long Can You Stay 3cm Dilated

What Is Dilation?

Dilation is the process of opening up of the cervix to facilitate the baby to pass through the birth canal. Dilation usually happens anytime between 37 and 42 weeks and take hours or even days to reach its full capacity of 10cm. It is a very important part of labor and only a doctor can determine how dilated you are through a vaginal examintaion. 

The initial phase of dilation will take some time. But once your cervix is dilated to 6cms, the rest of the stage will take only a few hours. 

What Are The Different Phases Of Dilation?

Dilation happens in three phases.

  • Early phase: In this phase, the cervix will dilate from 1cm to 3cms. The contraction will be mild during this phase and can last for 30 to 45 seconds. The gap between each contraction can range from 5 to 30 minutes, with the time getting reduced as the labor progresses.  

This stage can last up to 20 hours during your first delivery and up to 10-12 hours during your subsequent deliveries. In most cases, you will spend this stage of labor at home. 

  • Active phase: This is the stage when the cervix dilates from 6 to 10 cms. At this stage, the pain will be more regular and intense and last for 45 seconds to a minute. The time between each contraction can range from 3 to 5 minutes. 

The active phase usually lasts for 5 hours during the first delivery and up to 2 hours in the subsequent deliveries. You can try relaxation techniques at this phase to calm your mind and ease the labor. 

  • Transition phase: This is the stage when the cervix goes into full dilation of 10 cms. This is the shortest period and lasts from 15 minutes to an hour. By the end of this stage, the cervix will be fully dilated. 

How Can I Dilate Faster From 3cm?

Once you are dilated 3cm, you can adopt any of the below methods to speed up dilation

  • Moving around

When you get up from your normal position and move around, it increases the blood flow to your cervix. Moreover, standing and moving around also applies pressure on the cervix which can speed up the dilation. 

Sitting on an exercise ball and slowly moving also loosens the pelvis and speed up the dilation. 

  • Relaxing

It’s quite natural to feel tensed when you are in labor. This stress can cause muscle tension which can make dilation difficult.

Practicing relaxation techniques like meditation and breathing exercise, helps to calm the mind and body. This helps to speed up dilation. 

Laughing also helps you to relax and speed up dilation. Joking, or watching funny movies are ways to laugh and relax. 

  • Sex

Though sex is the last thing you would want to have while in labor, having sex can relax you and speed up the dilation. Besides, a hormone present in semen called prostaglandin can help promote dilation. 

Can You Be 3cm Dilated And Not In Labor?

Dilation of the cervix is not the only criterion to decide whether you are in labor. Sometimes you may experience frequent contractions even when you are 1cm dilated. 

Once you reach the hospital, the midwife will do a physical examination to see whether the labor has started. In addition to dilation, the midwife will checks for thinning of the cervix called effacement, which is also important for the baby to pass through the birth canal.

If you are only one or two cms dilated and the effacement is only 50 per cent, you need to wait for days or weeks before the actual labor starts. 

How Dilated Do You Have To Be To Be Admitted To The Hospital?

Once the dilation is past 5 or 6 cms, the doctor or midwife will insist on you staying in the hospital. In addition, if your water is broken or have a special condition, the doctor will insist on you staying in the hospital. 

Sometimes, you may have dilated only 4 or 5 cms. But if you have regular contractions and a past history of fast labor, the doctor will insist on you staying in the hospital. 

Enjoyed this article? Make sure to read these next for your postpartum essentials and learn about the postpartum sitz bath (game-changer!)


No two labor are the same. Just because you took a lot of time dilating during your first delivery does not mean that you follow the same pattern the subsequent times as well. Dilation and labor will happen fast during the second and subsequent deliveries as the cervix has already lost its rigidity. 

Being well informed about the various stages of labor and dilation helps you face labor with more confidence.