background image
Stages of Labor
As you near the birth of your baby, it is helpful to learn about the 3 stages of
labor.
The First Stage of Labor

The first stage is the start of labor and lasts until the cervix is fully open at
10 centimeters. This is the longest stage of labor and can last 12-17 hours.
This stage is divided into early labor, active labor and transition.
1. During early labor, the cervix dilates from 0 to 3 centimeters.
Contractions may last 30-60 seconds and occur every 5-20 minutes.
There may be a pink, slightly bloody or mucous discharge from the
vagina. Backache, nausea and diarrhea may also occur.
2. During active labor, the cervix dilates to about 7 centimeters.
Contractions become stronger and longer, lasting about 1 minute and
repeating every 2-4 minutes. Pain medicine may be given at this time.
3. During transition, the cervix dilates to 10 centimeters. Contractions are
stronger and occur more often. Intense pressure in the lower back and
rectum may be felt.

What you can do:
Relax between contractions. Use the breathing or relaxation techniques you
learned in childbirth classes or ask your nurse for help. Do not push until
you are told to do so.


What your partner can do:
Encourage and comfort. During early labor, help her change positions every
1-2 hours. Provide ice chips and lip balm. Use touch and massage. Use
encouraging words.
The Second Stage of Labor

The second stage begins when the cervix is fully open and lasts until the
baby is delivered, about 1-2 hours. During this time, staff will tell you when
you can push and help support your body as you deliver your baby.