The Three Stages Of Labor
Labor is described in three stages. Together these stages complete the delivery and the passage of the placenta.
During the first stage, the woman reaches full cervical dilatation. This begins when contractions start, and it is the longest stage of labor. The first stage is divided into three phases: latent, active, and transition.
The second stage is the delivery of the infant. During the second stage, mom actively pushes out the baby. For first-time mothers, this can take 2 to 3 hours, so it's important to save your energy and pace yourself. For second babies and beyond, the second stage often lasts less than an hour -- and sometimes, only a few minutes. If you have an epidural anesthetic, the second stage may require more time.
The third stage of labor is the passage of the placenta. This may occur right away, or take up to 30 minutes. The process may be sped up naturally by breastfeeding (which releases oxytocin), or medically by administering a drug called pitocin.
Review Date: 8/20/2019
Reviewed By: LaQuita Martinez, MD, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Emory Johns Creek Hospital, Alpharetta, GA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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