Stages of labor

no two deliveries are identical and there is no way to predict how the delivery is going to go! The text below is just a general guidance what we can expect.


Early Labor is defined by cervical dilation of 0-3 cm, contractions in the range of around 20 minutes apart, and each contraction lasting around 30-45 seconds.

The labor can be announced by a mucus coming from the cervix.

The typical early labor signs are back ache, soft bowel movements, sometimes the bag of waters break at the beginning of labor, sometimes it can happen later on.

Contractions are getting stronger, longer and closer together. While contractions can be quite strong a woman can normally talk and continue normal activities between them. Slow walk or resting are recommended, plus breathing techniques during contractions. In most cases staying home is totally safe during early labor. This is a good time to call the caregiver to let him/ her know a mother entered an early labor.

Active Labor is defined by cervical dilation of 4-8 cm, contractions 3-5 minutes apart, each contraction lasts about 60 seconds.

Active Labor is the beginning of intense contractions, other symptoms are trembling, nausea (sometimes vomiting), and various levels of discomfort between contractions. In active labor mother has difficulties with talking between contractions, and she should save the energy for sure. This is usually the best time to the hospital or birthing center, or call them midwife home.

To help with the progress of the labor woman should change the position every 30 minutes. Relaxing and breathing slowly as well as vocalizing are helpful mechanisms to release the pain and discomfort during contractions. Placing the hot or cold pack on the belly and back can help to alleviate pain. Walking and squatting might be very helpful! Some women recommend to take a bath or seated shower.

Transition into the second stage occurs together with extremely intense contractions. Contractions can be accompanied by rectal pressure. This is the most challenging part of the labor for most of women, and they need the most of the encouragement and guidance in this phase. Very often strong emotions come in this phase of the labor. Mother needs a lot of help, but in fact she is very close to delivering her baby!


Resting phase is often the beginning of the second stage of a labor. This usually takes place at 10 cm of dilation. During this period women can experience about 10-20 minutes without contractions.

Descent Phase – This phase can be exhausting as the mother works very hard to push her baby out. Contractions are 3-5 minutes apart, lasting about 1 minute.

Crowning – The baby’s head descends to the opening of the vagina and doesn’t recede with contractions. It is an extremely intense part of the labor with the sensation of stretching followed by burning. Cold compress on the perineum can sooth the pain.


10-20 minutes after the baby is born there might be cramping and uterine contractions which helps to deliver placenta. At the same time the mother can hold already her baby, which helps her to finalize the labor and push to deliver placenta. If delivery of placenta is going smoothly this is the best time to start breastfeeding.