Every woman’s experience of labor pain is different. For some it is mild, for others it is intense. Read about the different types of labor pain so that you can plan for natural or medicated pain relief in your birth plan.
An Overview of Labor and Delivery
You should have covered all the ins and outs of pregnancy labor in your childbirth education classes and have a good idea of what to expect. But sometimes it helps to refresh your memory and sit down and read about it at your leisure. In this article, we give an overview of each of the three stages of labor and answer some frequently asked questions from our readers. If you need more detailed information about one of the stages of labor, just click on the subheading and we'll give you all the facts.
First Stage Labor:
The first stage of labor is divided into three phases; early labor, active labor, and transitional labor.
The early labor phase runs from when you start to have your first contractions until your cervix is dilated 3 centimeters. The active labor phase lasts until you are 7 centimeters dilated, and the transitional phase lasts until you are fully dilated at 10 centimeters.
First Stage Labor Frequently Asked Questions:
Question: How long is the first stage of labor?
Answer: How long is a piece of string? The first stage of labor tends to be the longest and can last anywhere from a few hours to up to two days. Generally, early labor lasts between 8 and 12 hours, active labor lasts between 3 and five hours, and transitional labor lasts between 30 minutes and two hours. Every woman's labor is different.
Question: What are the first stage of labor symptoms?
Answer: There are a number of symptoms that show your cervix is beginning to soften and thin. But the first sign that labor is starting is when you begin to have regular contractions. Read more about the early signs of labor here.
Second Stage Labor:
The second stage of labor is known as the pushing stage. It begins when your cervix is fully dilated (10 centimeters) and ends with the birth of your child.
Second Stage Labor Frequently Asked Questions:
Question: How long is the second stage of labor?
Answer: Thankfully, the second stage of labor duration tends to be a lot shorter than the first stage. You can expect the pushing part to last anywhere between 20 minutes and two hours.
Question: At what point do any second stage of labor nursing interventions begin?
Answer: Some women experience labor complications in the second stage, and some have a prolonged second stage of labor. Your medical professionals will be constantly assessing you during this stage and will intervene if it is necessary. If the second stage of labor lasts for more than two hours, the risk of complications increases dramatically and your medical team will consider performing an emergency cesarean section.
Third Stage Labor:
You might think that your pregnancy labor is over with the birth of your child. Not quite. You still have one little job to do. The third stage of labor takes place after your child is born and you deliver the placenta.
Third Stage Labor Frequently Asked Questions:
Question: How long does the third stage of labor last?
Answer: It usually takes between 5 and 30 minutes to deliver your placenta. However, it can feel like an eternity because you're exhausted and all you want to do is get to know your beautiful new baby.
Do you have pregnancy labor questions you'd like to ask? Or a labor story you'd like to share?
We've tried to make our explanations of each stage of labor as comprehensive as possible. But, as every woman's labor experience is different, it is hard to cover all the bases. If you have questions you'd like answered about any of the stages of pregnancy labor, feel free to ask them in the comments section - we'll do our best to answer. You may also like to share your labor stories. It's one thing to know the scientific facts, but many women also find it really helpful to hear about peoples' labor experience and to get a better picture of what the process is like in real life.
Need More Information about Pregnancy, Labor, and Childbirth?
Check out our directory of articles on everything related to labor and delivery:
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From about 35 weeks pregnant, it’s a good idea to have a hospital bag ready to go for when your labor starts. But what should you put in your hospital bag? And what can you leave out? Use our handy checklist for some extra help.
What are the earliest stages of labor? How can you tell a Braxton Hicks contraction from the real thing? Find out more about the sure signs labor is starting and when it’s time to call the midwife here.
The final weeks of pregnancy can feel like the longest weeks of your life! But your baby will arrive when he or she is good and ready! Find out more about how to tackle the “due date blues” right here.
Does eating pineapple to induce labor really work? How much would you need to eat? Does canned pineapple work? Does pineapple juice induce labor? We look at the science, and the safety, behind the rumor that pineapple induces labor.