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Labor is when your body prepares to have your baby.

Signs of labor typically start before you get to the hospital and before you can be assisted by specially-trained nurses and physicians.

Labor Stages

Labor has three stages. Your healthcare provider may talk about the progress of your labor with certain words. One of these is your baby’s position. Another is your baby’s station. The effacement and dilation of your cervix will be noted.

First Stage of Labor

During the first stage of labor, contractions of the uterus help your cervix thin (efface). They also help it widen (dilate). This will help your baby pass through the birth canal (vagina). At first your contractions will not come that often or last that long. But as time passes, they will come faster and last longer. They will then be 2-5 minutes apart. They will last about 45-60 seconds each.

Second Stage of Labor

In the second stage of labor, you will have stronger contractions of the uterus. They may happen every 2-3 minutes. They may last from 60-90 seconds each. Your baby will move down the birth canal. Your doctor will ask you to push with each contraction. Try to rest between the contractions if you can. Your baby is delivered at the end of this stage of labor.

Third Stage of Labor

The third stage of labor comes after your baby is born. This is when the afterbirth (placenta) comes out of the uterus. Your uterus will continue to have contractions. But they are much milder than before.

Has Labor begun?

Labor Has Probably Started If:

  • Your contractions are getting stronger instead of weaker. You’ll probably feel them throughout your whole uterus.
  • Your contractions are regular (you feel them about every 5 minutes) and they are getting more painful.
  • You have pink-colored or blood-streaked fluid from your vagina.
  • Your water breaks. It may be a gush or a slow trickle of clear fluid from your vagina.

It’s Probably Not Real Labor If:

  • Your contractions aren’t regular or strong.
  • You feel the contractions only in your lower uterus.
  • Your contractions go away when you walk or change position.
  • Your contractions go away after drinking fluids.

Timing Contractions

  • The length of each contraction from its start to its finish.
  • How far apart the contractions are— the time between the start of one contraction and the start of the next one.

Pain Relief Options

A woman has many options for managing the discomforts that occur during labor and the birth of her baby. Generally, mothers and their doctors or midwives want to use the safest and most effective method of pain relief for both mother and baby. The choice will be determined by:

  • Patient and family preference
  • The health of the patient
  • The health of the fetus
  • The doctor’s recommendation

When to Call Your Health Care Provider

Call your doctor or clinic right away if you notice any of these signs:

  • Fluid from your vagina, with or without contractions.
  • Bleeding heavy enough that you need a sanitary pad.
  • You don’t feel your baby moving as much as before.