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Labor and Delivery - Stages of Labor

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.

Stage three: The placenta is delivered

After your baby is born, your body still has some work to do. This is the third stage of labor, when the placenta is delivered. You will still have contractions. These contractions make the placenta separate from the inside of the uterus, and they push the placenta out. Your medical staff will help you with this. They will also watch for any problems, such as heavy bleeding, especially if you have had it before.

You may be given some medicine to help the uterus contract firmly. Oxytocin (such as Pitocin) may be given as a shot or in a vein (intravenously) after the placenta is delivered. Oxytocin is given to make your uterus shrink and bleed less. (This is the same medicine that is sometimes used to make contractions more regular and frequent during labor.) Breast-feeding right away can also help the uterus shrink and bleed less.

The third stage can be as quick as 5 minutes. With a preterm birth, it tends to take longer. But in most cases, the placenta is delivered within 30 minutes. If the placenta doesn't fully detach, your doctor or nurse-midwife will probably reach inside the uterus to remove by hand what is left inside. Your contractions will continue until after the placenta is delivered, so you may have to concentrate and breathe until this uncomfortable process is complete.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: February 15, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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