Stages of Labor


This page is dedicated to covering the stages of labor. There are 3 stages of labor:

  1. First stage: time between the onset of labor to complete cervical dilation. There are initial and latent phases of this stage.
  2. Second stage: time between complete cervical dilation to fetal delivery
  3. Third stage: time between fetal delivery and placental delivery
Brief characterization of the different stages of delivery (source)
Brief characterization of the different stages of delivery (source)

As explained above, the first stage of labor is defined as the time form the onset of labor to the complete cervical dilation. With this in mind, the precise time of labor onset is very difficult to determine because the normal uterus itself contracts intermittently/irregulary throughout the course of gestation (and the initial contractions of labor are mild/infrequent). A popular definition of this stage is the time between 4 cm of dilation to complete dilation (~10 cm).

With this in mind, there are two major phases of the first stage:

  1. Latent phase: this phase is characterized by gradual cervical change.
  2. Active phase: rapid cervical change.

This is the time from complete cervical dilation (~10 cm) to fetal delivery. Some physicians further divide this stage into the passive and active stages:

  1. Passive stage: time from complete cervical dilation to the onset of active maternal expulsion
  2. Active stage: the beginning of active maternal expulsion efforts to the delivery of the fetus.

As stated before, this is the time between the fetal delivery and the placental delivery.

Page Updated: 05.01.2016