Stages Of Labor

Before we move on to the second trimester, it’s a good idea to take a look at the stages of labor, and you may want to come back and read these again later…

Understanding “labor and its stages” is one of the most important factors that help with the birth. Because, as I’ve said before, the examples we see around us, all that we hear about unfortunate natural delivery myths, the information we acquire from movies, relatives, friends, and acquaintances instill prejudice in us. Some women go into the delivery room without a clue as to what will happen to them and that usually results in gross mismanagement of opportunities. The mother, with no confidence in herself, panics and readily agrees to the C-section, which is presented as a choice alongside second-hand birthing stories and with no roadmap whatsoever.

However, when we understand how birth happens in our bodies, we see that some of the things that scare us are actually impossible, and others are manageable by being patient and resilient and by letting go. Below are the “stages of labor,” which were explained to me by my midwife and I think are pretty clear.

There is also one extremely valuable pro-tip that I believe is crucial and strange-ly is not explained in any book or talked about by anyone. It’s about pushing. When I was told to push towards the end of the delivery, I spent 4-5 hours thinking that I’d somehow start to feel the baby’s head in my vagina and get the urge to push. Eventual-ly, to my great surprise, I figured out that pushing was the same as having a bowel movement and as soon as I did, I gave birth. When it was all over, “I have to share this with other women,” I said to myself, as I’m sure if you have this information, you’ll have an easier time of it.

The stages of labor, from the moment it begins, can be explained as follows:

Birth takes place as a series of consecutive stages. First, the cervix must become suita-ble to dilate. The cervix, which is usually turned towards your back, begins to turn for-ward as its level of water increases and it gets softer. At this stage, a mucus plug that is accumulated in the canal between the cervix and the intrauterine cavity may be dis-charged. This is also called a “bloody show.”

Once the basic preparations are complete, labor begins with uterine contrac-tions, the main factors for the opening of the cervix and pushing out of the baby. There are three clinical stages of birth.

The first stage is the period from the beginning of the uterine contractions to the opening and thinning of the cervix enough to allow the baby’s head to pass. This opening is usually 10 centimeters.

The second stage is the period from the full opening of the cervix to the birth of the baby.

The third stage is the period that begins with the birth of the baby and ends when the placenta and membranes are completely expelled from the uterus.

The first stage of labor is when the cervix dilates and gets thinner. This is the longest stage of the act of giving birth. The cervix opens wide enough for the baby’s head to pass through and gets thinner at the same time. This opening and thinning are caused by the pressure that the baby induces from the inside, which is in turn due to the pushing motion that results from uterine contractions.

The uterus is essentially a muscle tissue. These muscles contract from the top of the uterus and create pressure towards the bottom. The mother feels these contractions as pain and that is what’s called labor pain.

The first stage of labor is divided into several phases. The time from the begin-ning until the cervix is dilated 3-4 centimeters is called the latent phase. The frequency and intensity of the contractions are relatively lower in the latent phase. In the begin-ning, the contractions come every 15-30 minutes and last about 15 seconds and the frequency and intensity gradually increase.

The time between 4-centimeter dilation and being fully dilated is the active phase. Towards the end of the active phase, the contractions occur every 1-2 minutes and may last as long as 1 minute. 

The first stage of labor usually takes about 12 hours for those who are giving birth for the first time, and 6-8 hours for the second or third births. However, this first stage could even last less than an hour or longer than 24-48 hours.

The duration depends on several varying factors

 Whether the expectant mother has given birth before

 The frequency, intensity, and duration of uterine contractions

 The cervix’s ability to shorten and dilate

 Proportions of the baby and the mother’s pelvis height

 How the baby’s front-facing side is placed

Below, I have listed the stages of labor in more detail, as shared by my midwife.


Burcu Kutluk


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