At the end of pregnancy, a woman’s body begins the work of opening
up and pushing the baby out into the world. This work is called labor.
Every labor is different. It can be long or short, very difficult or not.
But each labor follows a basic pattern:
• Contractions (labor pains) open the cervix,
• the womb pushes the baby down through the vagina,
• the baby is born, and then
• the placenta (afterbirth) is born.
In this section of the book, we explain how to get ready for a birth,
and some general ways to care for a woman during labor. Then we
explain labor in 3 different parts, or stages.
• Opening, or Stage 1, begins when contractions start to
open the cervix. It ends when the cervix is completely open.
(See Chapter 11.)
• Pushing, or Stage 2, begins when the cervix is open.
This is usually when the woman wants to push.
Stage 2 ends after the birth of the baby.
(See Chapter 12.)
• The birth of the placenta,
or Stage 3, begins after
the birth of the baby.
It ends after the
placenta is born.
(See Chapter 13.)