The Stages of Labor and Delivery
Labor and delivery is the process of bringing a baby into the world. It is a natural and usually safe process that is an exciting time for a mother-to-be. Understanding the stages of labor and delivery can help women and their support team prepare for the birthing process, and help them calm fears and worries.
Stage One: Early Labor
The first stage of labor is the longest and can last for several hours. Early labor can be confusing for some, as signs of early labor can be similar to signs during the final weeks of pregnancy.
- Signs of Early Labor:
- Back pain
- A “show”
Duration: Contractions tend to last 30 to 60 seconds and occur 5 to 30 minutes apart.
Stage Two: Active Labor
The second stage of labor begins when the cervix is fully dilated at 10 centimeters and usually lasts until the birth of the baby. This is the most intense stage of labor as the contractions become increasingly more frequent, lasting up to 70 to 90 seconds long.
- Signs of Active Labor:
- Strong and frequent contractions
- Rupture of membranes
- Change in the color of amniotic fluid
Duration: Generally, active labor lasts from 3 to 6 hours.
Stage Three: Transition Labor
The third stage of labor begins when the baby is born and usually lasts until the delivery of the placenta.
- Signs of Transition Labor:
- Strong contractions
- Intense pain
- Feeling out of control
Duration: Transition labor can take 10-20 minutes.
Stage Four: Afterbirth Delivery
The fourth stage of labor is the delivery of the placenta.
- Signs of Afterbirth Delivery:
- Contractions that cause vaginal bleeding
- Uterine cramping
Duration: It can take anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes for the placenta to be delivered.
Labor and delivery is a process that each woman approaches differently. Learning and understanding the stages of labor and delivery can help women to better prepare and feel more comfortable with this special experience.