Through cervical dilation, the lower portion of the uterus known as the cervix opens. Healthcare staff can track the progress of a woman’s labor by monitoring her cervix opening (dilating).
The cervix is opened during labor to allow the passage of the baby’s head into their vagina. Most term babies are around 10 cm (cm) dilate.
Your cervix should be dilation with frequent, painful contractions. This indicates that you are in active labor.
Stage 1 in labor
The latent and active phases are the two main parts of the first stage.
Latent phase of labor
The latent stage of labor represents the first stage. This stage can also be called the “waiting game” phase of labor. It can take some time for first-time mothers to get through the latent stage of labor.
At this stage, contractions don’t seem to be strong or consistent. As it prepares to host the main event, the cervix is “warming up,” softening and shortening.
The uterus could be compared to a balloon. The cervix is the neck and opening of the balloon. The neck of the balloon will expand as the balloon is filled up. This is similar to the cervix.
The cervix simply refers to the bottom opening of your uterus that opens wider to accommodate the baby.
Stage of active labor
When the cervix is approximately 5-6 cm wide, a woman is in active labor. Contractions become stronger and more frequent.
The rate at which your cervical dilation is increasing per hour is more indicative of the active stage of labor. Your doctor will expect you to notice your cervix opening more frequently during this stage.
How long does stage one of labor take?
There is no hard and fast scientific rule that will tell you how long active and latent phases in women. A woman can dilate anywhere from 0.5 cm to 0.7 cm per minute during the active stage of labor.
Your first baby will have an impact on how fast your cervix dilates. Mothers who have had a baby before tend be more efficient during labor.
Some women simply move more quickly than others. Some women might “stall” at one stage and then dilate quickly.
It’s safe to assume that your cervical dilation will be steady every hour once labor starts. Women don’t begin to dilate more frequently until they are closer to 6 cm.
When a woman’s cervix has dilated to 10 cm, and is fully effaced (thinned), the first stage of labor ends.
Stage 2 in labor
When a woman’s cervical size is 10 cm, the second stage of labor starts. A woman may not be fully dilate immediately after giving birth, even though she is fully dilate.
Although a woman may have reached full cervical dilation, the baby may need to take some time for the birth canal to fully open. Pushing is possible once the baby has reached prime position. After the baby is born, the second stage ends.
How long does stage 2 take?
This stage is where the baby’s time can vary. The process can take anywhere from minutes to several hours. Some women deliver only with a few pushes. Others may push for up to an hour.
Only contractions can cause pushing, so the mother should rest between them. The ideal frequency for pushing is between 2 and 3 minutes, with a duration of 60 to 90 seconds.
For women who have had epidurals, pushing is more difficult for the first time and second-time mothers. Epidurals can decrease a woman’s desire to push or interfere with her ability. The following factors determine how long a woman can push:
- The policy of the hospital
- The doctor’s discretion
- The mom’s health
- The health of the baby
Mothers should be encouraged to move around, squat with support and rest between contractions. If the baby is not progressing or the mother feels exhausted, forceps, vacuum or Cesarean delivery may be considered.
Every woman and every baby are different. There is no “cut-off” time for pushing that is universally accepted.
The birth of the baby is the end of the second stage.
Stage 3 labor
Perhaps the most overlooked phase of labor is the third. Although the “main event” of birth is the birth of the baby (the birth), the body of a woman still has much work to do. She’s delivering her placenta.
The placenta is actually an entirely separate organ in a woman’s body. The placenta ceases to have a function after the baby is born. Her body must then expel it.
Placentas are delivered in the same manner as babies, via contractions. They might not feel as strong or as powerful as the contractions required to expel the baby. The doctor will direct the mother to push, and usually the birth of the placenta can be completed in one push.
How long does stage three of labor take?
The third stage of labor may last between 5 and 30 minutes. This can be accelerated by placing the baby on the breast to breastfeed.
After the baby is born, and the placenta is delivered, the uterus contracts. The body then recovers. This is commonly referred to as the fourth stage of labor.
After labor has ended, the body of a woman will need to rest for a while to get back to normal. It takes on average 6 weeks for the uterus and cervix sizes to recover to their pregnancies.