There are mainly three stages of labor. They are namely – contraction and labor, pushing and the birth of the baby, and the exit of the placenta. However, it is not as easy as you think it to be.  

The process of labor is one of the most difficult and complicated processes that a woman goes through. While the standard stages of labor are divided in three parts, it changes depending on the body of the woman. The beauty of womanhood includes experiencing labor at a very personal level. So, you can consider that every woman faces labor in a different way. 

Knowing what to anticipate at every stage helps you feel calm and prepare yourself once you get into labor.  


  • There are three stages of labor – cervical dilation, birth of the baby, and birth of the placenta.  
  • Some of the most common signs and symptoms that you are going into labor might include backache, periods like cramps, diarrhea, and contractions.  
  • If you are not sure whether to be at home or go to the hospital, call up your midwives.  
  • You need to rush to the hospital if your water breaks or if you start to bleed.  
  • Having someone to support you throughout helps a lot during labor.  

How To Know You Are Going Into Labor?  

Braxton-Hicks contractions are often mistaken for labor. These false warnings of labor usually begin midway through your pregnancy and continue all the way till the end of it. You might witness these contractions visibly hardening and lifting the pregnant belly.  

You Are Going Into Labor

The exact reason behind the onset of labor is still unknown. However, it is considered to be influenced by the oxytocin hormone, which is mainly responsible for uterine contractions.  

Symptoms Of Labor  

If your due date is anywhere around the corner, here are the most prominent symptoms of labor that you need to look out for:  

  • Diarrhea  
  • Cramps similar to period cramps  
  • Backache  
  • A tiny blood stained discharge occuring as the cervix thins and the mucus plug falls out  
  • A trickle or gush of water as the membrane breaks  
  • Contractions  

If you experience any of these symptoms, be prepared. You are going to meet your little one soon. 

What Are The Stages Of Labor?  

As we mentioned before, there are mainly three stages of labor – dilation, delivery of the baby, delivery of the placenta. However, it is more than just this. All the stages of labor are further broken down into substages that define exactly how labor works.  

What Are The stages Of Labor

So, without any further delay, let us jump into the different stages of labor and learn how to welcome your little bean into this world.  

Stages Of Labor: Stage 1  

The very first stage of labor is the most extended part of the three. In some cases, it might last for up to 20 hours at a stretch. It starts when the cervix opens or dilates. The process ends when the cervix is fully dilated at 10 centimeters.  

The first stage of labor is further divided into three parts:  

  • Early labor  
  • Active phase  
  • Transition phase  

Early Or Latent Labor  

The latent or the early phase is when the labor actually starts. During this phase, you will experience some very mild contractions that happen 15 to 20 minutes apart and last for around 60 to 90 seconds. The contractions are going to become more regular till they become 5 minutes apart as time passes by.   

These contractions dilate and efface your cervix. This means the cervix becomes thinner and shorter and more prepared for delivery.  

 At the time of the early phase, the cervix dilates from zero to six centimeters, and the contractions become stronger with every passing minute. During this phase, you may witness some discharge from your vagina that ranges from being clear to a bit bloody.  

This phase of the labor goes on for hours and sometimes even days. It is best if you can spend it in the comfort of your own home. Here are certain things that you can do to help yourself with this labor process:  

  • Change positions pretty often  
  • Take a walk  
  • Keep practicing relaxation and breathing techniques.  
  • Soak yourself in a warm tub of water or take warm showers. If your water breaks, talk to your doctor before taking a dip in the tub.  
  • Rest as much as you can  
  • Drink lots of water.  
  • Pack everything and prepare yourself for the hospital. 

Active Phase  

The active phase begins when the cervix dilates 6 to 8 centimeters, and the contractions become stronger and last for about 45 seconds, with a 3-minute difference between them.  

You might have a backache and more vaginal bleeding. If the amniotic membrane breaks or the water breaks, the contractions might become too strong to tolerate.  

This part of stage one lasts for about 4 to 8 hours. Your mood might also become too serious as you focus on nothing but the contractions. This is the time where you would have to depend on your support person.  

It is actually at the time of the active phase when you need to be rushed to the hospital. 

Here are some tips that will help you get through the active phase with much ease:  

  • Try to change your position. Getting on your hands and knees can ease the pain of back labor.  
  • Keep walking in between your contractions.  
  • Empty your bladder more often to make more space for the baby’s head in the pelvis  
  • Keep on practicing relaxation and breathing techniques  
  • Ask your partner for a soft massage  
  • Listen to calming music  
  • Focus on dealing with just one contraction at a time. Keep in mind that every contraction is a little step towards meeting your baby.  

Transition Phase  

This phase is relatively shorter, but is too painful and intense. It typically takes from 15 minutes to about an hour for the cervix to dilate totally from 8 to 10 centimeters.  

You might feel pressure on your rectum, and the backache might just get worse. The vaginal bleeding will become heavier.  

You might feel the urge to push even more, but, you are not to do so unless your doctor suggests you to. Pushing before the cervix dilates fully might swell it up only to slow down the process even more.  

Stages Of Labor: Stage 2  

The second stage of labor starts when the cervix is dilated fully at 10 centimeters. This stage goes on until the baby passes through your birth canal, vagina, and the baby takes birth. This stage might last for two hours or longer.  

The contractions at this stage might feel a bit different from the ones you experienced during the early stages of labor. The contraction will slow down to two to five minutes apart and will last for about 60 to 90 seconds. You will have a strong urge to push with the occurrence of each contraction. Try to rest as much as you can in between the pushing intervals, and only push when you are asked to.  

 Here are some tips that can help you push:  

  • Try every possible position to push, like lying on your side with your leg up, squatting, or resting on your hands and knees.  
  • Take deeper breaths in and out and before and after every contraction.  
  • Curl as much as possible during the push. This allows for the muscles to work even more.  

The doctor might give you pain-relieving medicines or have an episiotomy if required during pushing. An episiotomy is a process where a small cut is made between the anus and the vagina to widen the vaginal opening. Episiotomy might be a requirement to get the baby out quickly to prevent irregular or large tears of the vaginal wall.  

Birth Of The Baby..  

 The location of the baby’s head as it passes through the pelvis is noted in a number known as station. If the baby’s head has not begun its descent, the station is reported at minus 3. When the baby’s head reaches zero station, it is right in the middle of the birth canal and is there in the pelvis. Every station of the baby is an indication of the progress of your second stage of labor.  

 After the baby is born, your doctor will hold it, lowering its head to prevent any mucus, amniotic fluid, or blood from getting into the lungs of the baby. The baby’s nose and mouth will be suctioned with the help of a small bulb syringe to remove any other fluid present. Then, the baby will be placed on your stomach, and right after, they will cut the umbilical cord.  

Stages Of Labor: Stage 3   

This stage of labor starts right after the baby is born and ends once the placenta is removed from the uterus wall and is taken out through the vagina. This stage is often known to be the delivery of the “afterbirth,” and it is the shortest labor stage. It might last for up to 20 minutes. You will still go through contractions, but they will be less painful.  

If the doctor did an episiotomy on you, they would stitch it back during this stage of labor.  

Here is what you should anticipate during the third stage of labor:  

  • The contractions start again about five to thirty minutes after delivery. These contractions mainly help detach the placenta from the uterus. However, they will not be as painful as the ones you experienced before.  
  • You might have an urge to push. Or, the doctors will push on your stomach to move the placenta forward.  
  • You might experience heavy vaginal bleeding for a short time span during or after delivering the placenta.  
  • Some women even experience a mild fever or chills. Let your healthcare provider know if any of these symptoms show up in your case.  

 In case of a C-section delivery, the doctor will remove the placenta right at the time of delivering the baby.  

Is There A Fourth Stage Of Labor?  

Is There A Fourth Stage Of Labor

The stages of labor are mainly segregated into three parts. However, some experts claim that the 2 to 3 hours after the delivery of the placenta is the fourth stage of labor. This is the time when parents start to bond with their new baby. At this time, the uterus relaxes, and doctors monitor for any abnormal bleeding that needs to be taken care of.  

Pictorial Representation Of Pain Tolerance During Different Stages Of Labor  

What Are The Causes Of Labor?  

Now that you know about all the stages of labor, it is important that you know of all the possible reasons that induce labor in women.  

Most experts claim that when the baby is ready to come out, it releases a certain hormone that triggers the labor process to start. For most women, this usually happens between the 37th and 42nd weeks of pregnancy.  

 In special cases, the doctors need to induce labor in women. This means you can take medication that lets your body go into labor.  

 Labor induction might be a requirement if:   

  • You have certain health conditions like high blood pressure or diabetes, which might affect your and your baby’s health.  
  • Your baby is showing slow growth.  
  • The baby is overdue, which means it is still in the uterus even after 42 weeks.  
  • When your water breaks but labor does not start.  

When To Call The Doctor?   

Till a point, the stages of labor can be dealt at home. However, there are times when things get out of hand and you immediately need to contact your healthcare provider.  

 Even if it is the early stage of labor, you need to contact the doctor if:   

  • You experience chest pain  
  • There is dizziness or fainting  
  • You feel nausea and vomiting  
  • There is a shortness of breath  
  • Your arms, legs, or face start swelling up  
  • There is heavy bleeding 
  • There is a major decrease in the movements of the baby  

The Bottom Line  

 Different women experience stages of labor differently. When you know what to anticipate during each of these stages makes the process quicker and more bearable.  

Making a proper birth plan with your doctor is one of the best ways to prepare for your labor and delivery. Think about having a selected birth partner who can help you during the whole process. This partner can be your husband, boyfriend, mother, friend, or anyone that you trust and can make you feel comfortable.  

However painful, the process of labor is one of the most beautiful things that a woman can endure. If anything at all, you can consider this as a step that takes you closer to meeting your little bean.


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