The early phase of labour, when the cervix is less than 3cm dilated, can be very slow. But dilation isn't everything.
'The cervix both opens and becomes paper-thin. You may have gone from having a relly thick cervix to a really thin one, so even if you're not dilating, you will have acheived a huge amount, says Annette Briley, a reseacrh midwife for Tommy's, the baby charity.
Consultant obstetrician Dr Virginia Beckett, of the Royal Collage of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, adds, 'If you're in the early stages of labour and your waters haven't broken, we normally recommend waiting.
'It can be frustrating, but if we intervene you're more likely to end up with an operative delivery.'
However, once you're in active labour (more than 3cm dilated), but aren't dilating steadily - 1cm per hour - you may be offered the option of speeding things up.
'If you're in the active phase or your waters have broken, we'd look at why you're not dilating. It could be because the baby's in a difficult position or your contractions aren't strong enough.
'If he's in a difficult position, then making the contractions stronger can help him turn. We'd normally use a Syntocinon drip to increase their strength, says Dr Beckett.