Stages of Labor


STAGE 1: Latent phase of labor

Duration: about 6 hours for 1st baby, 2-4 hours for subsequent babies

Contractions: about 5-10 minutes apart, lasting about 30-60 seconds

Cervix: dilates to about 3-4 cm, begins to efface (thin)

What you might feel:

  • Backache
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • “Nesting” instinct
  • Excitement, anticipation
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Bloody show
  • Regular contractions

What you can do:

  • Clear liquids; stay hydrated
  • Controlled relaxation
  • Slow deep breathing with contractlons—begin with any sign of tension
  • Call the office when contractions are 4-5 min. apart or if water breaks

What your partner can do:

  • Offer encouragement
  • Help time contractions
  • Help patient with breathing and relaxation

Active phase of labor

Duration: about 4 hours, or 1cm/hr. for 1st baby; 2-4 hours, 2 cm/hr. for subsequent babies

Contractions: about 2-4 min. apart, lasting 45-60 seconds; much stronger

Cervix: dilates to 8 cm., effacement 100%

What you might feel:

  • Contractions are much stronger, more frequent, usually felt in lower abdomen
  • Backache
  • Significant mood change: less talkative, more focused on work, introverted
  • Needs more support from partner/nurse
  • May ask for pain medication/anesthesia (epidural)

What you can do:

  • Continue slow deep breathing
  • Concentrate on one contraction at a time
  • Walk, if permitted, or sit in chair
  • Empty bladder frequently

What your partner can do:

  • Act as go-between you and nursing staff/midwives/doctors
  • Verbally coach
  • Watch for tension
  • Help change positions
  • Chapstick (your lips may feel dry from the breathing)
  • Rub back
  • Cool washcloth to face
  • Encourage and praise!

For Back Labor:

  • Pressure on, or massage, lower back Ice or heat to back
  • Lie on Left side
  • Hands and knees position every 20 minutes

Transition phase of labor

Duration: Shortest, most difficult phase; 1.5 min. to 3 hours

Contractions: May seem continuous, very intense, lasting up to 90 sec.

Cervix: Dilates to 10 cm (full dilatation)

What you might feel:

  • Contractions feel almost continuous
  • May feel Increasing pressure In a lower back and/or rectum
  • May feel hot and sweaty one minute, then cold and chilled the next
  • Usually, feel that you cannot continue anymore
  • May feel an involuntary urge to push

What you can do: 

  • Keep your eyes open and focus on partner/nurse
  • Change to pant/blow breathing to keep from pushing before it is time
  • Remember, it’s almost over!

What your partner can do:

  • Keep her attention and help her breathe through each contraction
  • Verbal praise!!!!
  • Remind her that labor is almost over
  • Cool cloths to forehead
  • Note: some women become almost “out of control” at this point, so partners should not take anything said or done personally!

STAGE 2: Delivery

Duration: may take up to 2-3 hours for baby, especially if you have an epidural; may be just a few minutes if you’ve had a child before

Contractions: expulsive in nature; may space out a bit

What you can do:

  • Push!!
  • Take deep, full breath then bear down as if having a bowel movement
  • Release tension in your face
  • Open your eyes when told to do so to see your baby being born!

What your partner can do: 

  • Help your partner maintain the most comfortable position for pushing
  • Give verbal encouragement
  • A cool washcloth to face

STAGE 3: Delivery of placenta

Duration: within about 5-10 minutes after birth, but may take up to 30 minutes

Contractions: you may notice some cramping as the uterus contracts to expel the placenta, but you do not have to push

How you might feel:

  • Relieved!
  • You might have “the shakes”
  • Crampy
  • Excited
  • Sense of accomplishment!

What you can do:

  • Relax!
  • Focus on baby!
Accepted Insurances

May-Grant Obstetrics & Gynecology participates with the following insurances. Please note that office copays are due at the time of service and any co-insurances are the responsibility of the patient. Please check with your carrier or call our office at 717-397-8177 for an updated menu of insurance options.

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"May-Grant OBGYN and all of the providers are absolutely splendid. The entire experience is all about engaging with you and how they can help address your whole health picture. My questions are always answeered and never rushed."
January, 2023

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