Stages of Labor


 

STAGE 1: LATENT PHASE OF LABOR

Duration: about 6 hours for 1st baby, 2-4 hours for subsequent babies

Contractions: about 5-10 minutes apart, lasting about 30-60 seconds

Cervix: dilates to about 3-4 cm, begins to efface (thin)

What you might feel:

  • Backache
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • “Nesting” instinct
  • Excitement, anticipation
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Bloody show
  • Regular contractions

What you can do:

  • Clear liquids; stay hydrated
  • Controlled relaxation
  • Slow deep breathing with contractlons—begin with any sign of tension
  • Call the office when contractions are 4-5 min. apart or if water breaks

What your partner can do:

  • Offer encouragement
  • Help time contractions
  • Help patient with breathing and relaxation

 

ACTIVE PHASE OF LABOR

Duration: about 4 hours, or 1cm/hr. for 1st baby; 2-4 hours, 2 cm/hr. for subsequent babies

Contractions: about 2-4 min. apart, lasting 45-60 seconds; much stronger

Cervix: dilates to 8 cm., effacement 100%

What you might feel:

  • Contractions are much stronger, more frequent, usually felt in lower abdomen
  • Backache
  • Significant mood change: less talkative, more focused on work, introverted
  • Needs more support from partner/nurse
  • May ask for pain medication/anesthesia (epidural)

What you can do:

  • Continue slow deep breathing
  • Concentrate on one contraction at a time
  • Walk, if permitted, or sit in chair
  • Empty bladder frequently

What your partner can do:

  • Act as go-between you and nursing staff/midwives/doctors
  • Verbally coach
  • Watch for tension
  • Help change positions
  • Chapstick (your lips may feel dry from the breathing)
  • Rub back
  • Cool washcloth to face
  • Encourage and praise!

For Back Labor:

  • Pressure on, or massage, lower back Ice or heat to back
  • Lie on Left side
  • Hands and knees position every 20 minutes

TRANSITION PHASE OF LABOR

Duration: Shortest, most difficult phase; 1.5 min. to 3 hours

Contractions: May seem continuous, very intense, lasting up to 90 sec.

Cervix: Dilates to 10 cm (full dilatation)

What you might feel:

  • Contractions feel almost continuous
  • May feel Increasing pressure In a lower back and/or rectum
  • May feel hot and sweaty one minute, then cold and chilled the next
  • Usually, feel that you cannot continue anymore
  • May feel an involuntary urge to push

What you can do: 

  • Keep your eyes open and focus on partner/nurse
  • Change to pant/blow breathing to keep from pushing before it is time
  • Remember, it’s almost over!

What your partner can do:

  • Keep her attention and help her breathe through each contraction
  • Verbal praise!!!!
  • Remind her that labor is almost over
  • Cool cloths to forehead
  • Note: some women become almost “out of control” at this point, so partners should not take anything said or done personally!

STAGE 2: DELIVERY

Duration: may take up to 2-3 hours for 1.st baby, especially if you have an epidural; may be just a few minutes if you’ve had a child before

Contractions: expulsive in nature; may space out a bit

What you can do:

  • Push!!
  • Take deep, full breath then bear down as if having a bowel movement
  • Release tension in your face
  • Open your eyes when told to do so to see your baby being born!

What your partner can do: 

  • Help your partner maintain the most comfortable position for pushing
  • Give verbal encouragement
  • A cool washcloth to face

STAGE 3: DELIVERY OF PLACENTA

Duration: within about 5-10 minutes after birth, but may take up to 30 minutes

Contractions: you may notice some cramping as the uterus contracts to expel the placenta, but you do not have to push

How you might feel:

  • Relieved!
  • You might have “the shakes”
  • Crampy
  • Excited
  • Sense of accomplishment!

What you can do:

  • Relax!
  • Focus on baby!