Phases and Stages of Labor
There are three main phases and stages of labor that you will hear referred to quite often when it comes time to deliver your baby. However, there is no reason to wait until you are in labor to learn about these phases and stages, what they involve, and what you should be doing during each one. The first stage consists of three phases, and the remaining two stages have just one phase each.
Stage One – Labor
This first phase of the first stage of labor is called the latent phase, but can also be referred to as early labor, or just simply the first stage of labor. During this phase. your cervix will start dilating and you will be having contractions, and they are normally not painful and you are able to move around, talk, laugh and function through them as normal.
Some women, who want a more natural labor and delivery (and who choose to refrain from using pain relief), will choose to stay home during this first stage of labor where they are more comfortable and surrounded by familiar things. As long as their water has not broken, they may choose to take baths or showers, light candles, play music, or just sit and talk to their partner while they time contractions.
This phase of labor can last on average 8 hours, although it can also last much longer, or end much sooner. Your contractions will come between 5 and 20 minutes apart and generally last about 30-45 seconds. You should not be in a lot of pain during this first phase, or too uncomfortable. This phase ends about the time a woman reaches 3 centimeters dilated, which is when the contractions become more frequent and more intense.
This second phase of the first stage of labor results in your cervix dialating from 4-7 centimeters, and during this phase, your contractions will normally come between 2-5 minutes apart, and last up to a minute in duration. You will also start to feel much more discomfort and possibly more pain as the contractions become more intense as they help to push the baby down through your cervix. If they have not ruptured yet, this phase is the most common time for your membranes to finally rupture. The active phase can last an average of 3-4 hours, but can go on longer, or end sooner, depending on your body and your labor.
The third and last phase of the first stage of labor results in your cervix dilating between 8 and 10 centimeters, and is the phase where your pain will be at its worst. During this time your contractions will seem to be coming one right on top of the other, and may last up to two minutes each in duration. During this stage the contractions are pushing your baby further down through the cervix, allowing his head to enter the vagina to prepare for birth. This stage normally lasts between 10 minutes and an hour.
Stage Two – The Birth of Your Baby
Stage two is the pushing of the baby out of your uterus through your vagina. Most women will find that they have a second round of strength as they begin pushing their baby. The contractions normally slow down giving a woman more time to catch her breath in between contractions. This stage can end relatively quickly, or can take several hours, depending on the position and size of the baby.
Stage Three – Delivery of the Placenta
This last stage of labor occurs after your baby has been born and normally lasts for a relatively short time. After the baby is born, the placenta should naturally detach from the uterine wall, following the baby out of the birth canal. The doctor will check the placenta for tears or problems that could lead to your uterus not contracting properly after the baby is born. It is important that your uterus contracts properly so that it can slow your bleeding and heal the area where the placenta was attached.
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