First Stage of Labor
The beginning stage of labor occurs from the time true labor begins until the cervix is completely dilated. This stage is usually the longest and may last about 16-18 hours for a first-time mom. Stage 1 of labor is broken down into 3 phases.
The first phase usually lasts around 8-10 hours. Contractions will occur about 20 minutes apart and gradually increase to every 5 minutes and the bag of waters might rupture during this phase. The expecting mother can be very talkative and have low back pain or flu-like symptoms. She should eat and drink lightly and begin relaxation breathing when contractions become uncomfortable. It is also helpful to do some non-strenuous activities such as walking, watching a movie or playing games.
Contractions will occur more frequently and grow in duration and intensity during this 4-6 hour phase. The mother might experience a variety of physical conditions such as nausea, vomiting, hot flashes and chills. It's important to relax during this phase and stay out of bed as much as possible.
The final phase of stage 1 lasts 1-2 hours with intense contractions every 1-2 minutes. This is the hardest but shortest part of labor. The expecting mother will feel a premature urge to push and rectal pressure. She might feel hot/cold, shaky, and very emotional.
Second Stage of Labor - Pushing & Delivery
The second stage is when pushing and the actual delivery occur. Contractions can happen every 3-5 minutes accompanied by a strong, natural urge to bear down. Mom might fall asleep between the contractions.
Many times, during this stage the mother will find new strength to work with the contractions. She will feel a stretching and burning of the perineum as the baby moves through the birth canal, but strong support can keep her focused on pushing and breathing.
Third Stage of Labor - Placenta Delivery
After the delivery of the baby, contractions slow for about 10-15 minutes. Hormones are released that signal the placenta to detach from the wall of the uterus. Once it has detached, contractions begin again. As the mother feels these new contractions, she will be directed to give one more push to deliver the placenta. This causes no or very little discomfort.
After delivery, the uterus is about the size of a large grapefruit and does not return to pre-pregnant size for about 6 weeks.