Defining the latent phase of labour


Identifying the onset of labour is an important but often challenging process for maternity care providers. It has been estimated that approximately 30% of women admitted to labour wards in the UK are subsequently found not to be in active labour. There is evidence that women admitted to hospital in the latent phase of labour have longer than average labours, are more likely to have a diagnosis of complicated labour and as a result have increased intrapartum interventions. This programme of work is exploring knowledge and opinion regarding the onset of labour.


International Early Labour Research Group

Vanora Hundley (Bournemouth University)

Susan Way (Bournemouth University)

Helen Cheyne (University of Stirling)

Mechthild Gross (Hannover Medical School)

Gillian Hanley (University of British Columbia)

Patti Janssen (University of British Columbia)

Helen Spiby (University of Nottingham)



  • Systematic Review of the literature on labour onset (completed).
  • Survey of maternity care providers’ views on definitions of the latent phase.



Hanley GE, Munro S, Greyson D, Gross MM, Hundley V, Spiby H and Janssen PA (2016) Diagnosing onset of labor: A systematic review of definitions in the research literature. BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth 16:71.

Hundley V, Way S, Cheyne H, Janssen P, Gross M, and Spiby H (2017) Defining the latent phase of labour: is it important? Evidence Based Midwifery 15 (3): 89-94.