Dr. Amos Grunebaum, MD, FACOG is a Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and among the world's leading authorities on fertility and pregnancy. Delivery can occur in two ways, vaginally (through the birth canal) or by a cesarean (surgical) delivery. Typically, after your water breaks at term, labor soon follows — if it hasn't already begun. Thankfully, it's also the least intense by far. The first stage of labor is the longest and involves three phases: Early Labor: The onset of labor until the cervix is dilated to 3-6 centimeters Active Labor Phase: Continues from 3 cm until the cervix is dilated to 7 centimeters Transition Phase – Continues from 7 cm until the cervix is fully dilated to 10 centimeters Each phase is characterized by different emotions and physical challenges. It features meal recommendations, kicks counter, blood glucose tracking, and helpful information to guide you through your pregnancy. If you experience prelabor rupture of membranes, your doctor might stimulate uterine contractions before labor begins on its own (labor induction). (It's also known as premature labor.) If you're like a lot of pregnant moms, you're probably wondering how you'll know for sure that you're in labor. Dilation, contractions, plugs of mucus, irritability, back ache, and much more can all be signs of labor! Water breaking and contractions are the later signs that labor is near or has begun. If you start having regular contractions that cause your cervix to begin to open before you reach 37 weeks of pregnancy, you're in preterm labor. For more information about labor and birth terms you need to know, download the Fetal Life App for Apple and Android endorsed by the American Pregnancy Association. First stage of labor Labor is the process by which the fetus and the placenta leave the uterus.   Lightening: The baby changing positions in the uterus before labor, usually described as the baby "dropping." For some women, though, it lasts much longer, while for others it's over much sooner. Look out for these 10 signs of labor that … The first of the three stages of labor, called the latent phase, is usually the longes. Labor: The period of contractions that change the cervix and ends with the birth of your baby. Labor is in turn broken down into three phases: early, active and transitional. Sometimes, however, labor doesn't start. Labor is the process of childbirth, starting with contractions of the uterus and ending with the delivery of the baby. Early signs of labor are passing the mucus plug and lightening. Towards the end of pregnancy, women experience new symptoms that leave them wondering if these are signs of the first stage of labor or just more “end of pregnancy stuff”. Labor generally progresses more quickly for women who've already given birth vaginally. And although it's good to be informed about all the ins and outs of labor and childbirth, it's also reassuring to know that your provider is on top of these kinds of details, so you can stay focused and relaxed. For first-time moms, labor often takes between ten and 20 hours. Effacement is not a sign of labor that you'll be looking out for, but it is a physical change that gives your healthcare provider important information about how far along you are. Read Dr. Amos' full bio , the book about him " Lessons in Survival: All About Amos ," and a fictionalized account of his father's life in the novel, " Through Walter's Lens ." Phase 1: early (latent) labor. NICHD provides detailed information about these topics on its Labor and Delivery page. Every pregnancy is different, and there's wide variation in the length of labor. 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