Labor Guide

The stages of labor

For a new mother, the entire childbirth can be an overwhelming experience. The more you understand what happens during labor, the more comfortable you will be with the birth.

During labor your contractions will occur at regular intervals, lasting 30 to 60 seconds. The contractions gradually will get closer together and you may feel them in your lower back or abdomen. There is increasing discomfort as contractions causes your cervix to soften, thin, and open.

Your water may break at any time until delivery – it could even break before contractions begin. Fluid will continue to leak throughout labor.

While this describes the most common childbirth experience, no two births are alike. If you have any questions or concerns during your birth, don’t hesitate to ask your physician or nurses.

Labor Stages

There are four stages to labor and birth. The following are brief descriptions of each stage.

  • First Stage of Labor. This begins at the onset of labor and ends when the cervix is 100 percent effaced (thinned out) and completely dilated to 10 centimeters. The average length of this stage ranges from ten to fourteen hours for a first-time mother. The stages may be shorter for subsequent births.
  • Second Stage of Labor. This stage begins when the cervix is completely effaced (thinned out) and dilated and ends with the birth of the baby. The average length for a first time mother ranges from 1 to 2 hours and may be shorter for subsequent births.
  • Third Stage of Labor. Beginning with the birth of the baby, this stage ends with the delivery of the placenta. The average delivery of placenta is an average of 5 to 15 minutes.
  • Fourth Stage of Labor. The final stage of labor begins with delivery of the placenta and ends one to two hours after delivery.

Induction of Labor

There are some instances if labor does not start on its own at the appropriate gestational period, doctors may use medicines to make labor start so the baby can be delivered vaginally. There are many reasons for labor induction, the most common being that the pregnancy is past the due date.

Your doctor also might recommend inducing if:

  • your water breaks but you aren't having any contractions
  • you have high blood pressure
  • you have an infection in your uterus
  • you have diabetes
  • there isn't enough amniotic fluid around the baby

Pain Management Options for Labor

There are many options for managing pain during your childbirth. These range from medications to relaxation techniques. Often, several different techniques can be part of your birth experience.

  • Epidural. There are a number of medications that can be administered this way. These are known as “regional blocks” and numb or reduce pain from the abdomen down.
  • Mental relaxation techniques. Various mental techniques can be used to promote relaxation during labor. Regardless of which method you use, it’s important to practice for several weeks so you can use them effectively during labor.
  • Narcotic analgesics. Unlike a regional block, a narcotic analgesic will reduce your entire body’s ability to sense pain or discomfort. These are not typically recommended or administered if you are within two hours of birth.
  • Physical Comfort Measures / Changing Positions. Basically, the same things you do to make yourself comfortable every day also can be used during labor. Some things moms have found helpful during labor are rocking chairs, birthing balls, position changes, or walking).

Cesarean Birth

A cesarean section, also known as a c-section, is a type of birth done by a surgical incision. This procedure allows a baby or babies to be born safely when a vaginal birth is not the safest route. If scheduled in advance, one person may be present during the procedure. During an emergency situation, no one is allowed to be present during the procedure.

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