Labor in real life is quite different from the depiction in many movies of a one-stage process. In reality, there are actually 4 stages (this applies to all pregnant women including plus-size moms to be):
The First Stage
During this initial stage, your cervix would start thinning (effacement) and opening (dilation). You will also experience contractions. In case this is your first pregnancy, the first stage of labor would last between 12 – 13 hours, while a second baby would take between 7 – 8 hours.
There are 3 parts in this stage:
1. Early Labor In The First Stage Of Labor
At this time, the cervix will open up to 4 centimeters. Contractions would be light enough to allow you to relax, drink clear fluids and eat light meals. Such contractions may disappear momentarily as you change activities, but would return soon afterwards. When such contractions become stronger, longer and more frequent, you would be moving to active labor.
2. Active Labor In The First Stage Of Labor
At this time, the cervix will open from a width of 4 to 7 centimeters. This is the time that you need to get to a hospital. Contractions would last for approximately 60 seconds at 3 to 4 minute intervals. Your water may also break, gushing out fluid and leading to faster contractions. To feel better you can change positions, apply hot or cold compresses and receive a massage.
3. Transition From First Stage To Second Stage Of Labor
During this transition, your cervix will open up the widest – from 7 to 10 centimeters. Definitely, this would be the most painful and hardest part of labor. Contractions are expected to occur within every 2 to 3 minute intervals and last for 60 to 90 seconds. The strong, long and frequent contractions can make you feel overwhelmed, tired, irritated or frustrated.
The Second Stage
Complete dilation (opening) of your cervix marks the beginning of your second stage of labor. This stage ends when your baby is actually born. The contractions you experience will help in pushing the baby down through the birth canal. Such intense pressure felt during contractions is much like the bodily urge during a bowel movement.
As each contraction occurs, you would be encouraged by the medical personnel to give an added push. Fortunately, such contractions tend to spread out, although they continually increase in strength.
With plus size women the labor period has a potential of lasting much longer than with other pregnant women. This may be due to the size of your baby. Other aspects that can affect the period of labor include the position of your baby and whether it is you first pregnancy or not.
The Third Stage
Once you have given birth to your baby during the second stage of labor, the uterus continues contracting to push out the afterbirth (placenta). It may take between 5 to 15 minutes following your baby’s birth for delivery of the placenta.
The Fourth Stage
Within a very short period, your baby may be ready to nurse. In some cases, the baby may take longer. Apart from the numerous benefits of breastfeeding to your baby, nursing soon after birth will also reduce bleeding and help the uterus to contract.