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Stages of Labor

Labor has 3 stages. Your healthcare provider may talk about the progress of your labor with certain words. One of these is your baby’s position. Another is your baby’s station. And the effacement and dilation of your cervix will be noted. Read below to learn about these terms and the 3 stages of labor.

Pregnant woman in hospital gown on delivery table with feet in stirrups. Healthcare provider is standing next to her helping hold her leg. Man is standing on other side holding other leg. Another healthcare provider wearing mask, hat, and eye protection is sitting between woman's legs. Inset of cross section of woman's pelvis showing baby passing through birth canal. Gloved hands are gently holding baby's head.
During the second stage of labor, your baby passes through the birth canal.

Your baby moves into position

Position is your baby’s placement in your uterus. Your baby may be facing left or right. He or she may be head first or feet first. Station refers to how far your baby has moved down into your pelvic cavity.

First stage of labor

During the first stage of labor, contractions of the uterus help your cervix thin (efface). They also help it widen (dilate). This will help your baby pass through the birth canal (vagina). At first your contractions will not come that often or last that long. But as time passes, they will come more often, they may be more painful, and they will last longer. They will then be 5 to 30 minutes apart. They will last about 30 to 45 seconds each.

Second stage of labor

In the second stage of labor, you will have stronger contractions of your uterus. They may happen every 3 to 5 minutes. They may last from 45 to 90 seconds each. Your baby will move down the birth canal. Your healthcare provider will ask you to push with each contraction. Try to rest between the contractions if you can. Your baby is delivered at the end of this stage of labor.

Third stage of labor

The third stage of labor comes after your baby is born. This is when the afterbirth (placenta) comes out of your uterus. Your uterus will continue to contract. But the contractions are much milder than before.

Online Medical Reviewer: Kanipe, Jennifer, RN, BSN
Online Medical Reviewer: Sacks, Daniel, MD, FACOG
Date Last Reviewed: 8/16/2015
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