Giving Birth: What to Expect During Labor and Delivery

Second Stage Labor
As this stage begins, the cervix is fully dilated to 10 centimeters, and the woman will voluntarily push the baby down the birth canal with contractions, which become very strong and painful. Lasting around 60 seconds, they do, however, space out to about two to three minutes apart. The usual length of second stage for a first-time mother is about two hours.

With an irresistible urge to push, the mother may feel more in control at this point, actively involved in completing the process of giving birth. She may feel a stretching or burning sensation as the baby's head is crowning. As this stage ends, there is a tremendous relief and excitement with the birth of the baby!

Third Stage of Labor
This is the shortest stage, lasting about 20 to 30 minutes following the birth, when powerful contractions of the uterus will expel the placenta. These contractions, however, are very different from labor contractions. They are prolonged, as the uterus clamps down to stop the flow from the blood vessels where the placenta was attached.

Women are encouraged to push with these contractions. The uterus will contract and remain firm after the placenta is out, preventing hemorrhage.

Fourth Stage of Labor
The fourth stage of labor begins after the birth of the baby and the delivery of the placenta and lasts for about an hour. The fourth stage is a healing and mending time for the mother, and a time for her and her new little baby to get acquainted.

During this stage, the midwife or doctor will examine the placenta and the cord, look for tears, and suture them and the episiotomy, if one was preformed. The uterus will be firm or hard to the touch. This is the adjustment period to the stresses of labor. Many of the physiological changes that occurred in labor will stabilize within the first hour following the birth.

RELATED: Labor Stages

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