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Childbirth Stage One

In this three part series, we will see what a wonderfully, joyous experience childbirth is.  Even the pregnancy, most women find enjoyable--not physically, but emotionally, as they bond to the child.  And while all childbirths are different, there are three basic stages that women will pass through during the childbirth. 

In this article, we will discuss the first stage, Stage One, the onset of labor, which goes until the cervix is dilated to about 10 cm. In the next article, we'll discuss Stage Two, which continues from that point until you deliver the baby.  And then we'll conclude with Stage Three:  Delivery of the Placenta.

Stage one of the childbirth process is the longest; it's the stage we refer to as labor.  Generally, we break down labor into three phases. The early-labor phase begins with labor's onset and goes until the cervix has dilated to around 3 cm.  Next is the active-labor phase, which goes from the end of early labor until the cervix has dilated to about 7 cm.  Finally, there is the transition phase, which continues from the end of the active labor phase until the cervix has fully dilated, to around 10 cm. Let's examine all three phases more in depth.

During early labor, you should try to relax as much as possible. Contrary to what you see in the movies, you don't have to rush to the hospital.  In fact, you'll find it feels better and easier to relax if you spend this time with your family at home.  In fact, if it's during the daytime, feel free to do some simple chores around the home. . . while conserving some energy.  Eat a small snack, and drink lots of water.  As you're going about your other tasks, monitor your contractions, especially noting how far apart they occur.

This early phase will last somewhere from eight to 12 hours. During this time, the cervix should dilate to around 3 cm, and contractions should last somewhere from 30 to 45 seconds.  You'll get about five to 30 minutes rest between them.  They should get closer and closer to one another.  You water might also break at this point.

As you're monitoring your contractions, keep track of how long they're lasting and how many minutes apart they become. Also, if your water breaks, notice the color and odor of the fluid, as well as the time it broke.

In the active labor phase, you should now proceed to the hospital. You'll notice that the contractions are longer, stronger, and closer to one another.  Start your breathing exercises, and throw in some relaxing exercises between the contractions.  Remember to switch your position a lot in this phase. 

Keep drinking water, and try to urinate occasionally. You can expect this phase to last anywhere from three to five hours. During this time, the cervix will dilate from around 4 cm to around 7 cm.  Your contractions will now be up to about 45 to 60 seconds, with only three to five minutes rest between them.

And last we head into the transition phase.  Tell your support person you'll be relying heavily on him / her during this time.  Normally this is the shortest phase, but also the hardest.  Just keep encouraging yourself every step of the way.  If you feel a need to push, tell your doctor. 

This phase will normally last between 30 to 120 minutes.  You can expect the cervix to dilate between 8 cm to around 10 cm.  Contractions will now be up to a minute to 90 seconds with only a 30 to 120 second rest between them. During this time, many women experience chills, hot flashes, nausea or gas.

It's a difficult time. . . but better times, and a beautiful baby is coming.

Childbirth Series Articles:

Childbirth Stage 1
Childbirth Stage 2
Childbirth Stage 3

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