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What Really Happens During Labor


For many first-time moms, the only definitive picture they get when it comes from labor and delivery is what they've seen in the movies. However, in real life, there's a lot that goes into having a baby.

It's important to point out that women will have varying experiences with labor based on their medical history and background, as well as the baby's health. Yet, many moms will endure anywhere from 10 to 20 hours of labor with their first baby.

However there are three main stages of labor. Read below for a more thorough breakdown of what you can expect:

"Many moms will endure 10-20 hours of labor with their first baby."

Stage one

During this phase of labor, your cervix will begin to go through rapid changes to prepare for delivery. In

order for the cervix to become fully dilated and ready for the baby to move through the cervix, contractions will begin. In the first few moments of labor, your cervix will thin out and open, according to Babycenter. Then, once the cervix is open, the contractions will begin to occur - also known as "active labor."

As the cervix becomes more dilated, so too will the intensity and frequency of your contractions. The Mayo Clinic points out that phase one of labor can be unpredictable, but first-time deliveries tend to last longer than subsequent pregnancies in general. Unfortunately, the first phase of labor tends to be uncomfortable and might last longer than you anticipate, so it's important to relax. Breathing techniques, changing your positions, massage, taking a bath and going for short walks can all help you stay more comfortable as your body prepares for labor.

Stage two

Once your contractions have ended and your cervix is fully dilated, you'll enter phase two, more commonly known as the "pushing stage." Like phase one, this stage can be a bit unpredictable when it comes to time. It can last anywhere from a few minutes up to several hours. However, the main objective is to push.

The Mayo Clinic says not to push with tension in your face, but "bear down and concentrate on pushing where it counts." During this time, it is important to listen to your doctor - he or she will advise you to push as hard as you can, or sometimes not push at all. Getting the baby's head delivered is the hardest part, as the rest of the baby's body will follow very soon. Once the baby has exited your body, the umbilical cord will be cut. Depending on the delivery, your baby's airway might also need to be cleared.

Stage three

Many women feel much better after stage two of delivery, as they are holding their baby in their arms and bonding with their new child. It's an exciting and emotional moment, but labor still is not technically over. During stage three, you will need to deliver the placenta. This can take anywhere from five minutes to an hour, so it's important to relax and be patient. Try to breastfeed your baby during this time if it's safe to do so.

The Mayo Clinic also says that you might feel some mild contractions post-birth, as your body is still trying to wind down from the delivery and your uterus is getting back down to a normal size. Once the placenta is delivered, the doctor will check to see that the entire placenta is intact. If it is not, he or she will take steps to remove it completely, as this can lead to infections and other complications. The doctor will also check your vagina for any tearing or bleeding during delivery - sometimes stitches might be needed following labor.

During all three stages, it is important to relax, breathe and finally, enjoy the time you have with your newborn. Even though labor and delivery is intense and painful at times, it worth it do have those precious moments with your new little one after it's over.

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