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Labor and Delivery - Stages of Labor

Transition

The end of active labor is called the transition phase. As the baby moves down, your contractions become more intense and longer and come even closer together.

When you reach transition, your delivery isn't far off. During transition, you will be self-absorbed, concentrating on what your body is doing. You may be annoyed or distracted by others' attempts to help you but still feel you need them nearby as a support. You may feel increasingly anxious, nauseated, exhausted, irritable, or frightened.

A mother in first-time labor will take up to 3 hours in transition, and a mother who has vaginally delivered before will usually take no more than an hour. Some women have a very short, if intense, transition phase.

Stage two: The baby is born

The second stage is the actual birth, when the baby is pushed out by the contractions. This pushing stage can be as short as a few minutes or as long as several hours. You are more likely to have a fast labor if you have given birth before. During the second stage:

  • Uterine contractions will feel different. Though they are usually regular, they may slow down to every 2 to 5 minutes, lasting 60 to 90 seconds. If your labor stalls, changing positions may help. If not, your doctor may recommend using medicine to stimulate (augment) contractions.
  • You may have a strong urge to push or bear down with each contraction.
  • You may need to change position several times to find the right birthing position for you.
  • You can have a mirror positioned so you can watch your baby as the head comes through the vagina (called crowning).
  • When the baby's head crowns, you will feel a burning pain. If this is happening quickly, your doctor may advise you not to push every time, which may give the perineum, which is the area between the vulva and the anus, a chance to stretch without tearing.

Your medical staff will be ready to handle anything unexpected. This is a time when your doctor or nurse-midwife will be deciding what is best for you and your baby.

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