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Normal Labor and Delivery Process

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Stages of Labor continued...

During the active phase, the cervix begins to dilate more rapidly. You may feel intense pain or pressure in your back or abdomen during each contraction. You may also feel the urge to push or bear down, but your doctor will ask you to wait until your cervix is completely open.

During transition, the cervix fully dilates to 10 centimeters. Contractions are very strong, painful, and frequent, coming every three to four minutes and lasting from 60 to 90 seconds.

Stage 2. Stage 2 begins when the cervix is completely opened. At this point, your doctor will give you the OK to push. Your pushing, along with the force of your contractions, will propel your baby through the birth canal. The fontanels (soft spots) on your baby's head allow it to fit through the narrow canal.

Your baby's head crowns when the widest part of it reaches the vaginal opening. As soon as your baby's head comes out, your doctor will suction amniotic fluid, blood, and mucus from his or her nose and mouth. You will continue to push to help deliver the baby's shoulders and body.

Once your baby is delivered, your doctor -- or your partner, if he has requested to do so -- clamps and cuts the umbilical cord.

Stage 3. After your baby is delivered, you enter the final stage of labor. In this stage, you deliver the placenta, the organ that nourished your baby inside the womb.

Each woman and each labor is different. The amount of time spent in each stage of delivery will vary. If this is your first pregnancy, labor and delivery usually lasts about 12 to 14 hours. The process is usually shorter for subsequent pregnancies.

Pain Treatments

Just as the amount of time in labor varies, the amount of pain women experience is different, too.

The position and size of your baby and strength of your contractions can influence pain, as well. Although some women can manage their pain with breathing and relaxation techniques learned in childbirth classes, others will need other methods to control their pain.

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