The time leading up to the normal birthing process is generally 266 days (38 weeks) - from conception to birth. However, only about 5% of births occur on the actual due date.
The 4 Stages of Labor:
Stage 1 - from the onset of labor to full cervix dilation
Stage 2 - from full cervix dilation to delivery of baby
Stage 3 - from delivery of baby to expulsion of placenta
Stage 4 - from expulsion of placenta to afterbirth recovery
Stage 1: Labor Onset to Full Cervix Dilation
Stage 1 consists of regular uterine contractions with cervix dilation. Full cervix dilation occurs at approximately 4 inches. The length of this stage varies from mother to mother. It depends on many factors including but not limited to previous pregnancies, the health and condition of the mother and fetus, patience of the doctor (or midwife) and willingness to induce labor, medications used at this stage, hospital versus home birth, etc.
Stage 2: Full Cervix Dilation to Delivery of Baby
Stage 2 generally takes from 15 to 50 minutes. During this time, uterine contractions strengthen and become more frequent. During this stage mother will feel the need to bear down and push. The baby goes through a series of passive movements - especially the head, which undergoes flexion, internal rotation, extension, external rotation, and crowning (the first sign of the baby's head).
Stage 3: Delivery of Baby to Expulsion of Placenta
This stage consists of the period immediately following birth to the expulsion of the placenta - generally taking 5 to 10 minutes. Should the placenta not easily come out, tugging or pulling should not be performed. Gentle uterine massage may be utilized to assist in the release. The placenta should always be examined to be sure no parts remain within the uterus. This can become detrimental to the mother causing hemorrhage and/or death.
Stage 4: Expulsion of Placenta to Afterbirth Recovery
During this stage, mother is monitored to be sure no uterine bleeding or other complications occur.