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Tips for Childbirth Progress: Understanding Labor Stage

The period of labor and childbirth are one of the most difficult but also the most excited moments in a female’s life. Understanding the labor stage will help you be better prepared for this period. For the first time mom’s it is hard to know when the labor begins. In some cases it all occurs very quickly.

How Long Does Labor Last

Every pregnancy is different and there is a wide variation in the length of labor. For women who are giving birth for the first time, labor often takes 10 – 20 hours. However, for some women it can last much longer. On the other hand, for some women the labor period is much shorter. The labor period is more quickly for women who have already given birth vaginally in the past.

Most women give birth between the 37 and 42 week of pregnancy. However there is no way to pinpoint when the labor will begin and the child will be born.

The process of labor and childbirth is divided into three stages.

Early Labor Signs and Symptoms

During the first labor stage the contractions begin. These contractions intend to be much longer, stronger and closer together as labor progresses. During this phase, contractions usually last between 30 and 60 seconds; they generally start 20 minutes apart and move to about 5 minutes apart. Eventually these contractions will last 40-60 seconds and they will be coming often, every five minutes. Contractions cause progressive changes in the cervix. This stage ends when the cervix is fully dilated. This stage is divided into early labor and active labor (Learn more: What Causes Water to Break). Early labor is characterized by a gradually thinning and opening of the cervix, while the active labor is characterized by a rapid dilatation of the cervix, which ends with a total cervix dilatation. (The cervix should be dilated 10 cm). The last part of active labor, when the cervix dilates from 8 to 10 centimeters, is called the transition phase. By the time the cervix is fully dilated the baby has usually descended and entered the birth canal.

Second Stage Labor Management

After the cervix is totally dilated the second stage of labor beings. This labor stage ends when the baby is delivered. It is often referred as the pushing stage. It lasts about an average of one-half hour to two hours in first-time moms. In subsequent births, it may last anywhere from a few minutes to two hours.

Third Labor Stage: Placental Separation

The third labor stage of labor is considered the stage after the baby is born and until the placenta is delivered. Couple of minutes after giving birth, the uterus begins to contract again and the placenta gets separated from the uterine wall. On average, the third stage takes about five to ten minutes.

Keep in mind that labor is different for every woman. Labor and delivery are also different for each of the pregnancies.

Sometimes labor can be induced (Read also: Common Labor Complications). The decision to induce labor is often made by the doctor when the woman has past her due date or when there are health problems regarding the baby or the mother.


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This website contains general information about medical conditions and treatments. The information is not medical advice.

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