Learn what you can expect in each stage of your labor and delivery in Kingston, New York

There are two distinct phases of labor and delivery: stage one (the "latent phase") and stage two (the "active phase").  Your expectations of labor and delivery should be very different for the latent and active phases of labor. Let's explore the differences.

In the initial first stage of labor, you begin having uterine contractions (tightening and squeezing of the uterine muscle). The uterine contractions are mild or moderate in intensity and last 30 to 45 seconds for every contraction. In this "latent phase" of labor, the cervix begins to thin and widen to allow the baby's head to begin its path into the birth canal.  When the cervix widens completely, the baby's head is engaged around the cervix and your baby is ready to be delivered.

The first stage of labor can vary anywhere from four to eight hours on average.  The duration of the first stage of labor is typically longer for mothers delivering their first baby, i.e., eight hours, vis-a-via mothers having their second or third baby, i.e., four hours.

After the cervix has fully widened (the opening is then 10 centimeters or four inches) and the baby's head is wrapped around the cervix, your baby is ready to be born and you are entering the second stage of labor, also known as the "active phase".  During the second stage of labor, your uterine contractions will become stronger in intensity and frequency and you will bear down during contractions to push your baby down the birth canal.  The second stage of labor typically lasts between 10 and 50 minutes.

Uterine contractions in the second stage of labor usually occur every two to three minutes and last 60 to 90 seconds each.  The contractions are more powerful and more painful for the mother.  Your obstetrician may perform an episiotomy to provide a wider vaginal opening for your baby's delivery.

One of the most common complications of labor and delivery is known as the "failure to progress", which refers to the failure of the cervix to dilate at a rate of 1.2 centimeters per hour over a period of at least two hours.  When your labor is not progressing, your obstetrician or midwife may give you the option of augmenting your labor with pitocin, a synthetic hormone that increases the pressure of uterine contractions.  Labor augmentation with Pitocin has its own complications that you should learn about.

As a mother, you want to learn as much about the birthing process as possible just in case you have a "failure of progress" or any other birth complication.  Make sure you discuss your birth options with your obstetrician or nurse midwife before your labor begins, so you can make an informed decision about the risks and benefits of a vaginal delivery versus a cesarean section.