ENG 111- Fall 2010
October 27, 2010
The Stages of Labor
The goal of any expecting mother, and her labor nurse, is the successful, uncomplicated birth of her baby. Understanding the process of labor will not only allow the mother, but her support system, to provide comfort, as well as assist her through this long awaited event. Although there is much pain and discomfort experienced by the mother, the labor and delivery of a newborn baby is an unforgettable occasion. After 17 years of supporting and encouraging laboring moms, and freaked out dads, I still find every delivery a miracle. Each one unique in its own way but the process always remains the same.
Labor is defined as the regular contraction and relaxation of the uterine muscle. This results in the progressive thinning [effacement] and opening [dilation] of the cervix and finally the delivery of the fetus and placenta. The process of labor and birth is divided into 3 stages. Each pregnancy is different for every woman and not all women are the same, so there is a variation in the duration of each stage. The 1st stage of labor is considered the “dilating” stage. It begins with the very first true labor contraction and continues until the cervix is completely dilated to 10 cm. This stage is then divided into 3 separate phases.
In the Early Phase, the mother may or may not be aware of any contractions. The frequency of the contractions varies from 5-20 minutes and they are only 30-40 seconds long. The cervix may dilate from 0-3cm but if contractions are not sustained, dilation may halt. The mother is usually able to walk, talk, and smile through these contractions, so admission to the hospital is not necessary at this point. Offering support and explanations is key during this phase. Reassuring mom and her support system, and reviewing breathing and relaxation techniques for those contractions that begin the 2nd phase of labor are also...