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  Pregnancy Labor
  Labor and Delivery
  Pregnancy Labor
  Labor Stage
  Early Labor
  Child Birth
  Natural Child Birth
  Ceaserian Birth
  Foreceps
  Multiple Birth
  Water Birth
  False Labor
  Induce Labor
  Self Induce Labor
  Labor Nurse
  Labor Food
  Labor Cramp
  Natural Labor
  Sign of Labor
  Early Sign Labor
  Labor Pain
  Reduce Pain
  Preparation Labor
  Care For Placenta
  Labioplasty
  Plastic Surgery
  Labor Countdown
  Natural or Epidural
  Best Birth Positions
  Using a Doula

Pregnancy Labor Stages: Understanding All Four Stages

Pregnancy labor can be divided into four stages, each with its own specific role in the delivery process. These stages are marked by the changes and activities that take place in the cervix and uterus throughout delivery. The following is a brief overview of these four stages to help you better prepare for your own birth process.

The first stage of labor is the beginning of true labor. Most women experience Braxton Hicks contractions in late pregnancy– these are a type of “warm up” or preparatory contraction and not true labor. Surprisingly, even first time mothers can usually tell the difference between Braxton Hicks contractions and the “real thing.” The first stage of labor is the time during which the cervix completely effaces, or thins out, and dilates to completion, which is 10 centimeters. The amount of time that first stage labor takes varies from woman to woman and from pregnancy to pregnancy. Generally, 10 to 14 hours is common in first time mothers, and subsequent pregnancies usually get through this stage more quickly.

The second stage of labor is the actual delivery of the baby. The amount of time this takes varies considerably, depending on the baby's position and the effectiveness of the mother's pushing. It may take as little as 10 minutes, or as long as 4 hours – most moms-to-be cross their fingers that this stage will be short! Typically, mothers who have previously delivered a baby have shorter second stage labors.

In addition, the mother's amniotic sac may break at any point during first or second stage, most commonly near the end of first stage.

Once the baby is born, the third stage of labor begins. This is delivery of the placenta, and may happen either a few minutes or a few hours after the baby is born. Mothers are encouraged to nurse their babies during this time to help their uterus contract and expel the placenta.

The final stage of labor is involution, or the returning of the uterus and cervix to their non-pregnant state. This actually takes place over several weeks after the baby is born. During this time, the mother will experience bleeding – known as lochia – and may feel some “after pains” or contractions as the uterus shrinks in size. Generally, these after pains are more commonly felt with second or subsequent pregnancies. In addition, breastfeeding helps involution take place more quickly and effectively.

During the first and second stages of labor, it’s common for a woman to undergo intermittent vaginal examinations to determine how her labor is progressing. Fetal monitoring may also be used to determine how the baby is handling the stress of labor, and may be done using either external or internal monitors.

In addition, during the second stage of labor, the woman's health care provider may also be able to determine how the baby is presenting, or rather, which part of the baby's body will emerge first. When a baby is born head first, it is said to have a cephalic presentation. The baby may also emerge facing the mother's back – which is called an anterior cephalic presentation – or facing the mother's stomach, which is called a posterior cephalic presentation. Generally, babies in a posterior presentation take longer to be born. In addition, a baby that is being born feet or bottom first is said to be in a breech presentation – most breech babies are delivered via Caesarean section.

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