The Latent Phase of Labor: Diagnosis and Management


  • Betsy Greulich CNM, MSN,

    Corresponding authorSearch for more papers by this author
    • Betsy Greulich, CNM, MSN, and Beth Tarrant, CNM, MSN, are staff nurse-midwives with University Midwifery Associates at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, NM.

  • Beth Tarrant CNM, MSN

Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of New Mexico, MSC10 5580, 1 University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM 87131-0001. E-mail:


The latent phase of labor is complex and not completely understood by modern science. Studies often ignore evaluation of this phase of labor because determination of onset is subjective. In this article, the definition and time parameters of latent phase labor are discussed, and generalized distinctions between prelabor and labor are evaluated. Outpatient relief measures for latent phase as well as inpatient medical interventions for prolonged latent phase of labor are reviewed. Recommendations for policy development are included along with a discussion about the need to consider the significance of time limits. For optimal outcomes, clinicians are encouraged to individualize a management plan that is made in collaboration with the laboring woman.