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For all you First Time Mammas: L&D

Posted by on Jun. 13, 2010 at 3:15 PM
  • 3 Replies


Delivery Stages

You made it! If you are reading this undoubtedly you are approaching or soon will be approaching the final stages of pregnancy. You may be wondering what exactly to expect during labor and delivery. There are two distinct phases of labor - early or latent labor and active labor. Active Labor is subdivided into three stages, which will be described in more detail below. There is no criteria for exactly predicting the moment when labor will start. Some women can have all the signs of impending delivery but hold out for several weeks, whereas others will have no signs and go into active labor in a matter of hours.

Early or Latent Labor
During early labor, you will probably be relatively comfortable. It is generally the longest part of the birthing process and may last anywhere from one to three days. During this time you may experience contractions that are mild or moderate, generally lasting anywhere from 30 to 45 seconds. These contractions may also be irregular in nature, and may stop and re-start again.

During the early phase of labor most women will dilate to 3 cm.  During this phase of labor taking a warm shower may help you relax. Try to sleep if possible to prepare for the active stage of labor.

If you are interested in speeding up the labor process, consider going for long walks which might help move the baby further into your pelvis.

Most women will be able to talk and function relatively normal during this phase. You can typically enjoy this part of labor in the comfort of your home. Traditionally early labor is longer for first time mothers than it is for moms who have given birth previously.

Active Labor

Active labor is characterized by three distinct phases:

  • Stage One - The cervix dilates and effaces
  • Stage Two - The baby is born
  • Stage Three - The placenta is delivered

First Stage
During the first stage the cervix will dilate and efface or thin out, preparing for birth. This stage typically commences when a woman is 3 to 4 cm dilated. Women will dilate until 10 cm.

Uterine contractions during this phase of labor are generally more intense than they are during early labor. They are also more frequent, occurring 2-3 minutes apart and may last from 50-70 seconds.

During active labor the bag of water often breaks.

Most women will report significantly more discomfort or pain during the active stage of labor. Your physician might offer you some form of pain relief, including use of an epidural to help ease the pain you are feeling from uterine contractions.

The first stage of active labor ends with the transition phase, where contractions become increasingly intense as the baby moves into the birthing canal. During this time you will be absorbed by contractions. You may feel anxious and exhausted.

This is the time where you might start feeling the urge to push. You will be dilated a full 10 cm at this point in time.

Second Stage
The second stage of active labor is the actual birth of your baby, or the process of pushing the baby out. This is usually preceded by a powerful urge to push the baby out of the vagina. You may feel a great deal of pressure in the pelvic region, in your vagina or in the back.

The pushing phase may be short or long. Most first time moms push for 2 to 3 hours, however some women may push for minutes before the baby passes through the vagina.

Third Stage
The third stage of labor is the time during which the placenta detaches and passes out of the body. Generally this occurs within 30 minutes after the second stage of labor. Though not as exciting as the actual birth of your baby, the passage of the placenta is a vital part of labor and delivery.

This process may require that you push a small amount to deliver the placenta. However, many women are so involved with their baby and the process of birth that they hardly even notice the delivery of the placenta.

The more prepared for labor you are the more comfortable you will be with the birthing process. Childbirth education classes can help you prepare for the actual process of labor.

by on Jun. 13, 2010 at 3:15 PM
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by Platinum Member on Jun. 13, 2010 at 3:16 PM
Thanks for posting this! I'm sure it will be helpful for many first time mama's on here!
by on Jun. 13, 2010 at 3:22 PM

It was very helpful to me makes me less anxious when I know what to expect

by on Jun. 13, 2010 at 3:27 PM
Thanks this was a great!
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