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  • Writer's pictureC.A.R.E. Medical Staff

Demystifying Labor and Delivery

**All of C.A.R.E. Medical Center's Healthcare related content is reviewed for medical accuracy before publishing**

Bringing a new life into the world is an incredible experience, but a lack of clarity can leave parents unsure of what to expect. Expectant parents often encounter sensationalized portrayals in the media or may hear horror stories from friends and family, which can contribute to anxiety and uncertainty. However, a comprehensive understanding of the labor process and dispelling these misconceptions can greatly reduce anxiety and empower parents-to-be. In this article, we will explore the step-by-step journey of labor and delivery, providing insights into each stage and highlighting how mothers and their partners can prepare themselves for this extraordinary event.

The Labor Process: A Step-by-Step Journey

Stage 1: Early Labor and Active Labor

Labor begins with early contractions, which may resemble menstrual cramps or backaches. These contractions gradually intensify, become longer in duration, and occur more frequently, indicating the transition to active labor. Simultaneously, the cervix begins to dilate, allowing the baby to descend through the birth canal. Monitoring contractions and maintaining communication with your healthcare provider to determine the appropriate time to proceed to the birthing location is important. At this point, your water might break. Dilation, during this stage of labor, is 0-3 cm and can last anywhere from 8-12 hours.

Preparing for Early and Active Labor:

  • Attend childbirth education classes: These classes provide valuable information on the labor process, relaxation techniques, and coping strategies.

  • Create a birth plan: Discuss your preferences with your healthcare provider, including pain management options, movement during labor, and any specific requests you may have.

What to do during early labor

  • At this point, try to rest. Don’t get tense or worked up. Maybe relax and watch a movie or read a book to keep your mind occupied.

  • Do some simple routines around the house. Maybe make your bed or put away some dishes.

  • Be sure to drink plenty of water and eat little snacks.

Stage 2: Transition and Pushing

During the transition phase, the cervix is fully dilated (3cm – 7cm), and contractions become intense and frequent. Typically, contractions at this point are 45-60 seconds with 3-5 minutes in between. They get longer, and stronger. It becomes difficult to talk through or walk through. This stage marks the transition from the opening of the cervix to the active pushing phase. The baby's head descends into the birth canal, and with each contraction, the mother actively pushes to aid the baby's progress. This stage of labor typically will last 3-5 hours.

Preparing for Transition and Pushing:

  • Practice relaxation techniques: Breathing exercises, visualization, and focusing techniques can help manage the intensity of contractions during this stage.

  • Maintain open communication with your birth support team: Clearly express your needs and desires to your healthcare provider and birth support team to ensure a supportive and collaborative environment.

  • At this point, it’s time to get ready to birth. Go to the hospital or birth center.

Stage 3: Delivery of the Placenta

When the baby is delivered stage 2 ends and stage 3 begins. The uterus continues to contract after delivery, causing the placenta to separate from the uterine wall. This stage involves delivering the placenta, which is typically accomplished within 10-30 minutes after birth.

What to do after delivery

  • Skin-to-skin contact with the baby: Immediate skin-to-skin contact promotes bonding and stimulates the release of hormones that aid in the delivery of the placenta.

  • Breastfeeding initiation: Breastfeeding stimulates uterine contractions, assisting in the delivery of the placenta.


Understanding the labor and delivery process can alleviate anxiety and provide expectant parents with a sense of empowerment. Make sure that you are informed about the details of labor. Maybe consider working with a doula or some other birth professional who can help be there with you through this whole process. Having a strong support team is essential to being able to By dispelling myths and misconceptions, parents-to-be can confidently approach this transformative journey. Remember to seek accurate information from reputable sources, attend childbirth education classes, communicate openly with your healthcare provider, and build a supportive birth team. Embrace the miraculous labor and delivery experience, knowing that you are prepared and supported every step of the way.


C.A.R.E. Medical Center is a reproductive health clinic and family support services center in Mount Vernon WA that is here to help you navigate your journey of parenthood. Whether you just found out you are pregnant and are not sure what to do next, or if you already have a couple at home but need help figuring out what parenthood looks like for you, we are here to support you along the way. All of our services are FREE and CONFIDENTIAL. Call or email to make an appointment today. Walk-ins welcome.

Additional Recommended Reading

The Mayo Clinic: Stages of Labor and Birth

Cleaveland Clinic: Labor & Birth

What to Expect: What are the Stages of Labor and How Long Does Labor Last?

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