The delivery of your baby is the event you’ve been planning for! Every woman is different, and every labor is different. It’s difficult to anticipate what will happen and what you will need during labor and delivery for pain relief. It’s impossible to know how long labor will last—3 hours or 20 hours. It’s best to adopt a flexible plan. Understand what’s available and what options you can choose during labor.
There are three distinct stages of labor. In the first stage of labor, your uterus contracts with enough intensity, duration and frequency to cause thinning (effacement) and dilatation of the cervix. The first stage of labor ends when the cervix is fully dilated (usually 10cm) and sufficiently open to allow the baby’s head to come through it.
The second stage of labor begins when the cervix is completely dilated at 10cm. Once full dilatation of the cervix is reached, pushing begins. Pushing can take 1 to 2 hours (first or second baby) to a few minutes (an experienced mom). This stage of labor ends with the delivery of the baby.
The third stage of labor begins after delivery of the baby. It ends with delivery of the placenta and the membranes that have surrounded the fetus. Delivery of the baby and placenta, and repair of the episiotomy (if you have one) usually takes 20 to 30 minutes.
Following delivery, you and the baby are evaluated. During this time, you finally get to see and to hold your baby; you may even be able to feed baby. You will probably stay in the hospital from 24 to 48 hours after vaginal delivery, three to four days if Cesarean delivery, if you have no complications. Once the doctor has determined that you and baby are healthy, you will be sent home to start your new lives together.