Stages of Labor
The four stages of the childbirth process are based on changes in the uterus and cervix as labor progresses. The beginning and end of each stage are described below:
First Stage of Labor
- Begins at the onset of labor and ends when the cervix is 100 percent effaced and completely dilated to 10 centimeters.
- Average length ranges for a first-time mother is from ten-to-fourteen hours and shorter for subsequent births.
- Read more in our Health Libarary
- Begins when the cervix is completely effaced and dilated and ends with the birth of the baby.
- Average length for a first time mother ranges from 1 to-2 hours and shorter for subsequent births.
- Read more in our Health Library
- Begins with the birth of the baby and ends with the delivery of the placenta.
- Average length for all vaginal deliveries ranges from five-to-fifteen minutes.
- Begins with delivery of the placenta and ends one-to-two hours after delivery.
How Will I know if I am Making Progress?
The progress of labor and the baby's position is determined by an internal vaginal exam. These exams are not done frequently and may be done during a contraction. Internal vaginal exams assess:
- Cervical effacement (thinning measured as 0 to 100 percent)
- Cervical dilation (opening measured as 0 to 10 centimeters)
- Baby's presentation (the part of the baby to move to the pelvis first, e.g. head, buttocks, feet)
- Position of the baby's presenting part (described as anterior, facing your back, or posterior, facing your front)
- Station (baby's progress down through the pelvis or birth canal. Measured in minus to plus numbers)