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Childbirth

Summary

When you are ready to have your baby, you'll go through labor. Labor is the process of giving birth. Signs that you might be going into labor include

  • Contractions that are regular then start to come closer together
  • Leaking fluid or bleeding from the vagina
  • Low, dull backache
  • Abdominal cramps

Call your health care provider if you have any of these signs, even if it is before your due date. Preterm labor can start before 37 completed weeks of pregnancy.

Labor happens in three stages. The first stage begins with contractions. It continues until your cervix has become thinner and dilated (stretched) to about 4 inches wide. The second stage is the active stage, in which you begin to push downward. Crowning is when your baby's scalp comes into view. Shortly afterward, your baby is born. In the third stage, you deliver the placenta. The placenta is the organ that supplied food and oxygen to your baby during pregnancy.

Mothers and babies are monitored closely during labor. Most women are able to have a baby through normal vaginal delivery. If there are complications, the baby may need to be delivered surgically by a Cesarean section.

NIH: National Institute of Child Health and Human Development

Start Here

  • (Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women's Health) Also in
  • (March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation) Also in
  • From the National Institutes of Health (National Institute of Child Health and Human Development) Also in
  • From the National Institutes of Health (National Institute of Child Health and Human Development)

Diagnosis and Tests

  • (March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation)
  • (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) - PDF Also in
  • (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) - PDF
  • (March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation)
  • (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research)

Treatments and Therapies

  • (Nemours Foundation) Also in
  • (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) - PDF Also in

Related Issues

  • (American Academy of Pediatrics) Also in
  • (Nemours Foundation) Also in
  • (Nemours Foundation) Also in
  • (American Academy of Family Physicians) Also in
  • (Nemours Foundation) Also in
  • (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) - PDF
  • From the National Institutes of Health (National Institutes of Health) Also in
  • (Nemours Foundation) Also in
  • (American College of Nurse-Midwives) - PDF
  • (March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation)

Specifics

  • (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) Also in
  • (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research)
  • Cesarean Section: FreeFacebookCredits2012 Health Topic From the National Institutes of Health (National Library of Medicine) Also in Spanish
  • (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research)
  • (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research)
  • (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) - PDF
  • (Nemours Foundation) Also in
  • (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) - PDF Also in

Images

Videos and Tutorials

  • Video (March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation)
  • Video (Healthy Roads Media) Also in
  • Video (Healthy Roads Media) Also in
  • Video (Healthy Roads Media) Also in

Statistics and Research

  • (National Center for Health Statistics)
  • (National Center for Health Statistics)
  • (March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation)
  • (National Center for Health Statistics)
  • (National Center for Health Statistics)

Clinical Trials

  • From the National Institutes of Health (National Institutes of Health)
  • From the National Institutes of Health (National Institutes of Health)

Journal Articles References and abstracts from MEDLINE/PubMed (National Library of Medicine)

Find an Expert

  • (Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women's Health) Also in

Patient Handouts

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