Stages of Labor and Delivery

You have made it through all trimesters without any difficulty, and now approaching the final stages. If it is your first pregnancy, you must be wondering what you will go through during labor and delivery. This period comprises of two different stages which are the latent (early) labor and active labor. Active labor is further classified into three different stages. Although there is no measure for predicting when labor starts, some women will show no signs and in a matter of hours, go into active labor. Others will have signs of approaching delivery but do not deliver holding out for several weeks.

Latent or Early Labor

Generally, this is the longest phase of labor and delivery lasting between 1-3 days. During this phase, you will feel somewhat comfortable and may experience mild and irregular contractions lasting about 30-45 seconds. The contractions may stop and start again. In this phase, the cervix in most women opens up to 3cm. During this time, some women are able to carry out light household chores without any difficulty. According to surveys, this phase is longer especially for first time mothers.

Experts recommend warm showers and sleep to keep you relaxed and prepared for the active stage of labor. Long walks are also helpful as they help in pushing the baby further into the pelvis. This stage is best experienced at the comfort of your home.

Active Labor

This stage is subdivided into 3 stages:-

Stage One- Cervix opens and effaces

Stage Two- Baby is delivered

Stage Three- Placenta is delivered

Stage One

This is when the cervix opens up to 4-8 cm. Contractions during this stage become intense lasting about 45 seconds. These contractions may be 3 minutes apart. During this stage, you will experience backaches and bleeding from your vagina will also increase. It is during this stage when the amniotic membrane ruptures (water breaks).

During this stage, you will be uncomfortable and the pain becomes more intense as the baby travels into the birth canal making you anxious and exhausted. This stage is when you get the urge to push as your cervix will be fully opened.

Your blood pressure, pulse as well as temperature are checked during this stage. Uterine contractions and heart rate of the baby will also be assessed. The cervix is also checked to determine how far the labor has progressed.

Stage Two

It begins when cervix is fully opened at 10cm. During this stage, you get a powerful urge of pushing the baby which might last anywhere between 2-3hrs for first time mothers. To mothers who have previously given birth, this stage is usually shorter. You will also experience pressure in your pelvic region or vagina and the back. This stage is when your baby is delivered.

If necessary, it is during this stage that your midwife will give you an episiotomy while pushing. This is a small slit made between the vagina and anus for the purpose of increasing vaginal opening. It is necessary as it prevent irregular tears and assists the baby in passing out quickly.

After the baby is delivered, its head will be lowered so as to prevent it from inhaling mucus, amniotic and blood. A small bulb syringe will be used to suction any fluid in the baby’s mouth, nose or ears. The umbilical cord is cut during this stage.

Stage Three

This stage is the shortest and kicks off when the baby is delivered and ends once the placenta or “afterbirth” is delivered. The stage lasts between 20 to 30 minutes. During this stage, you will experience less painful contractions. If you were given an episiotomy, it is stitched during this time. For the placenta to be delivered, you will be requested to push once more although most women hardly notice when the placenta is delivered as they are carried away with excitement.


WebMD – Pregnancy and the Stages of Labor and Childbirth – Stages of Labor and Delivery

BabyCenter –  The stages of labor