The Labor Stages Guide You Need to Read
The process of delivering a baby is an incredible one. Growing a baby inside your own body is miraculous; the process of getting one out is nothing short of a miracle. Once early labor begins, it can take as long as several days until the baby is born to as short as several hours. At the first sign of labor contractions, you may be wondering what comes next or what to expect. Having a baby is a journey your body takes one step at a time. The stages of labor are broken into three portions: early and active labor, delivery of baby, and delivery of placenta.
Stage One: Labor
The first of the labor stages takes the longest and is broken down into three phases.
• Early labor –During early labor, contractions can be 5-30 minutes apart and includes cervix dilation up to 3 cm. Your water could break (membrane rupture) anytime during early labor. No need to rush to the hospital yet; you’ll likely be sent home with instructions to come back once you are in active labor. This is the period where you may be trying to figure out if you’re really in labor or if it’s a false alarm. The key to recognizing true labor is to keep track of the consistency of your contractions. If they stop for several hours and start up again, you are probably not in early labor. If the contractions are building and staying consistent, this is a good indicator of early labor. Try to conserve your energy and relax as much as possible. You’re at the beginning of a potentially long process that will put your emotional and physical endurance to the test. Check here for descriptions of what labor pain feels like.
• Active labor –Contractions will be longer, stronger, and 3-5 minutes apart. Dilation of the cervix during active labor is 4 -10 cm. Time to head to the hospital or birthing center; your body is almost ready to deliver a baby!
• Transition – This is the toughest phase but the shortest. Labor contractions are even closer, sometimes overlapping, and are very intense. You may feel the urge to push. Try to stay positive and imagine how amazing it will feel to be holding your newborn baby in your arms.
Stage Two: Baby is Delivered
This is the part where things really get exciting. Baby will make his/her way down the birth canal once you are fully dilated (10 cm) and enter the vagina. You will feel a natural urge to push or bear down with each contraction. Crowning is when baby’s head emerges from the vaginal opening, which produces that burning sensation or ring of fire you may have heard about. Some women are encouraged by being able to see baby’s head during pushes through a mirror. Once your baby’s head is out, his body will easily follow. Time to officially meet your little one!
Stage Three: Delivery of the Placenta
One would think after delivering a baby the work would be complete, but it’s not quite over yet. The uterus will continue to contract, causing the placenta to detach from the uterine wall. Sometimes called afterbirth, the placenta is delivered within 5-30 minutes. It’s common to experience severe shaking and shivering once the placenta is delivered. Expect contractions to continue to shrink the uterus down to size.
The birth of a baby is truly a wonderful and unique experience that is unforgettable. It might seem frightening to think about the stages of labor and how painful labor can be, but once you get to hold your sweet newborn baby for the first time, it becomes totally worth it.
How long did it take you to get through all the stages of labor? We’d love to hear your comments!