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Labor and Delivery (cont.)

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What are the stages of labor and delivery?

Labor is divided into three stages, corresponding to the dilation of the cervix, the birth of the baby, and the delivery of the placenta.

Stage 1

Stage 1 is the longest stage of labor. It is characterized by thinning (effacement) and dilation of the cervix. Sometimes doctors subdivide this stage into three separate phases: 1) the latent phase, the 2) active phase, and the 3) transition phase. Contractions, occurring with increasing frequency, are present during all phases of Stage 1. Early contractions last from 30 to 45 seconds and are several minutes apart. During the latent phase the cervix opens about 3 to 4 centimeters. Many women are first admitted to the hospital during this phase. In the active phase, the cervix dilates more, up to about 7 cm, and contractions become more intense. The transition phase is preparation for the next stage of labor, in which the baby is born. The cervix dilates to the full 10 cm and contractions are strong and painful. Contractions can occur every 3 to 4 minutes and last from 60 to 90 seconds.

Stage 2

Stage 2 is the passage of the baby through the birth canal. It begins when the cervix is fully dilated (open), and you are then given instructions to push. Sometimes this is referred to as the "pushing" stage. The head is typically delivered first, and repeated pushing allows delivery of the shoulders and body. Some women prefer different body positions for this stage of labor- kneeling, squatting, lying down, or even on the hands and knees are all acceptable and common positions. This stage may take minutes to a few hours. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), a woman giving birth for the first time should complete Stage 2 within 2 hours if no regional anesthesia has been given and 3 hours if she has received anesthesia. Stage 2 is shorter in subsequent pregnancies; up to 2 hours if anesthesia has been given and 1 hour if not.

Stage 3

Stage 3 begins after the baby has been delivered. In stage 3, the placenta and fetal membranes are delivered. The placenta and membranes are sometimes referred to as the afterbirth. This usually takes only 5 to 10 minutes, but it can take up to 30 minutes. There are usually mild contractions that accompany stage 3 of labor and there may be some associated bleeding.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/9/2015


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