The stages of labor

Here’s a play by play of what happens when.

First Stage: Contractions

Duration:An average of 12 hours

What happens: During this stage, your cervix dilates. Early on, contractions may be mild, but become more intense and closer together during active labor. During early or active labor, your water may break and you may have vaginal bleeding. When your cervix is 8 to 10 centimeters dilated, birth is imminent and contractions can be particularly intense lasting a minute or so.

Second Stage: Birth

Duration: Two hours or longer.

When the cervix is 10 centimeters dilated and fully effaced, you’re ready to push your baby out. For more efficient pushing, take advantage of gravity. Raise the bed into a chair position so you’re semi-squatting. Or try squatting on the bed

or floor while holding onto

your partner and labor coach for support.

Third Stage: Delivering the placenta

Duration:Up to 30 minutes

You’re not done yet. During this stage, contractions will continue until the placenta is delivered, but they’ll be much less painful.

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