Timeline of Delivery

Giving birth is a natural process and each is unique, but they all follow the same timeline of delivery. Women giving birth should know all about the three stages of labor so they can prepare their birthing plans accordingly.

There’s a lot to know about birthing a baby, and we’ve got you covered. The three stages of delivery are labor, delivery of the baby, and delivery of the placenta.

Stage 1: Labor

Labor is the first stage of childbirth. Contractions begin in this stage to dilate, or open the cervix as well as soften and shorten it. This prepares your body for childbirth by making it easier for your baby to move through the birth canal. On average, your labor lasts between 12 and 24 hours. Labor is divided into three stages: early labor, active labor, and the transition phase.

    • Early Labor

Often referred to as early labor or latent labor, early labor is when your body starts contractions. They are often 15 to 20 minutes apart and are mildly uncomfortable. They should last about 60 to 90 seconds each, and become more regular until they’re about 4 minutes apart. This part of labor can take a long time. For first-time deliveries, it could take hours or even days. Labor times usually get shorter after multiple births.

As your body contracts, your uterus will dilate and efface, or soften, getting your uterus ready for delivery. Your cervix will dilate from 0 to 6 centimeters, and you may experience some clear discharge from your vagina.

If your water breaks or you experience vaginal bleeding, call your healthcare provider or go to the OB Triage at St. Joseph’s Hospital.

    • Active Labor

Women giving birth are usually portrayed in the media with active labor, as it’s the point where contractions become stronger, closer together, and regular. Your cervix will dilate from 6 to 10 centimeters. Your water may break during this time. Your contractions will continue to grow in intensity, and you may feel nausea, leg cramping, and back pain. 

Active labor will last anywhere from 4 to 8 hours. Once you’re at the hospital, they’ll check pulse, blood pressure, and temperature as well as monitor the baby’s heart rate. They’ll also do a pelvic exam to determine how much you’ve dilated. 

During active labor, you can ask for pain relief, such as an epidural. Epidurals are a common form of pain relief, and it’s the mother’s choice if she wants to use one. The doctor may also place an IV line into your arm to deliver medication or fluids.

Sometimes things don’t go according to the birthing plan. If you need a cesarean section, the doctor will administer anesthesia. You may need a cesarean if your baby is breech, meaning their feet, buttocks, or knees are positioned to come out of the vagina first rather than their head. Normally, if a baby is breech your provider is aware and will schedule a cesarean section.

    • Transition Phase

The transition phase is short, but also more intense and painful than the other labor phases. Your cervix will dilate from 8 to 10 centimeters and can last from 15 minutes to an hour. Your contractions will get closer and closer together and be about 2 to 3 minutes apart. They should each last about one minute. You will feel pressure on your lower back and rectum.

Stage 2: Delivery of Your Baby

Once your cervix is fully dilated to 10 centimeters, you’re ready for the second stage of delivery. Contractions will slow to about 2 to 5 minutes apart, and you’ll feel a strong urge to push. Push when your healthcare provider tells you to push. This stage may take up to a few hours. 

At this point, your body starts the process of birthing a baby. The baby will pass through the birth canal, and through the vagina to be born. Once the baby’s head passes through, the rest of the baby will follow quickly. Your healthcare provider will clean the baby and clear their airway once they’re born.

Stage 3: Delivery of the Placenta

You’ll be able to hold your baby once they’re born. You get to focus on your baby now, but labor isn’t quite over yet. You’ll have minor contractions that help push the placenta out, and you’ll need to push at least one more time to deliver the placenta. Your doctor will want to make sure it’s completely out to minimize the risk of infection and bleeding.

Birthing a baby is a wonderful process. If you’re looking for an OB/Gyn that you can trust for your delivery, book an appointment with us today.


Are you looking for an OB/Gyn you can trust? Do you live in the Tucson area? Book an appointment today!