The Different Stages of Labour

Dr. Elise Balaisis, MD, discusses the different stages of labour.

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Dr. Elise Balaisis, MD, discusses the different stages of labour.
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Video transcript

Featuring Dr. Elise Balaisis, MD, FRCPC

Duration: 2 minutes, 32 seconds

So labor is divided into two stages. The first stage and the second stage.

The first stage is the dilation stage, so we are going from active labor which involves regular contractions that are occurring frequently and are painful, that usually starts about 3 cm and goes all the way to 10 cm which is fully dilated, and that incorporates the whole first stage.

The second stage of labor involves from being fully dilated until - and all of the pushing part until the baby is actually delivered. So the average second stage is approximately two hours, but it really varies from woman to woman and it varies whether or not this is your first child, second child or many down the road.

So for a first time mom and a first time second stage, on average, it might take an hour or two hours of pushing in order to get the baby out. However, these things can change depending on whether or not you have an epidural or û and other factors such as the size of the baby, the size of your pelvis, the strength of your contractions and how hard you're working at pushing.

So in women who have had other babies, the second stage really is a lot shorter, although it can still be variable. On average, they're pushing for less than 30 minutes or around that compared to the one or two hours. Now, that again can increase, and they can be pushing longer if they have an epidural, but on average, it's a lot shorter with the second and the third time around than with the first time. So in the second stage, once the cervix is fully dilated, women usually have this overwhelming urge to push.

It's usually a very rewarding stage to get to because before everybody's just passively waiting for the cervix to fully dilate and now women have something to do, and they can focus all of their energies on pushing. Usually the pain isn't as intense or as distracting because there is a focus and there is something to do during that time.

There are qualified nurses and midwives and doctors who can help guide you through the pushing process if you're concerned about if you're pushing in the right spot and in the right way, but usually you're body can guide you as well to tell you how to push and the progress will speak for itself. If you have any questions about your second stage of labor, please contact your maternity care provider.

Presenter: Dr. Elise Balaisis, Family Doctor, Vancouver, BC

Local Practitioners: Family Doctor

This content is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.