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Stages of Labor

There are several stages of labor leading up to giving birth. Depending on what pregnancy you’re on will generally determine how long each stage will last for you but it also isn’t the rule. Every woman and pregnancy is different. For first time pregnancies, labor and delivery tends to last a good deal longer than for women who have already had at least one vaginal birth. With this in mind, new moms should really consider making a birthing plan to help them get through the long hours ahead of them.

In the first stage of labor contractions start coming on more of a regular basis and form a pattern. These are the contractions that mark the beginning of your cervix dilating. Contractions usually begin by having one every 10 minutes and each for 30 second period. As you progress to the end of the first stage of labor, your contractions will become more frequent and last longer. Once they are about every five minutes apart and lasting 40 to 60 seconds each, it’s a good idea to call your doctor or midwife and head out to the hospital or birthing center as your body transitions into the second stage of labor.

The second stage is called Active Labor. Your contractions will get much more painful in this stage as your cervix dilates from 4 to 10 centimeters. Good news is that when you are dilated to 10 it will be time to start pushing. Women who are having their first baby can take anywhere from 4 to 8 hours to get from 4 to the 10 centimeter goal. Those that have already had at least one vaginal birth before can usually expect things to move along much more quickly. While you are in the second stage of labor, your baby is beginning to descend down the birth canal and is getting in position in your pelvis for delivery.

The last stage of Active Labor is called the Transition and is the most intense part. Your contractions will be the strongest at this point and very close together, usually about 2 to 3 minutes apart. You will also notice a great need to bear down and push. However, if you can hold off on pushing, you can allow your uterus to do the beginning work for you. With every contraction, your uterus is pushing the baby further down the birth canal on its own. Once baby is far enough down, your provider will let you know to start pushing. The amount of time it takes in this phase varies greatly for every woman.

Once your baby has been delivered, you’ll have a chance to see your new bundle of joy. His umbilical cord will be cut, his nasal passages and throat will be cleared of mucus and he’ll get all cleaned up. Mean while your body is getting ready to expel the placenta. This generally only takes a few minutes and most women hardly feel a thing when they push. Once that is done, it’s time to focus and enjoy on your new bundle that you worked so hard for.