If Hollywood told the truth, labor pains would start and the baby would be born just minutes later. Thanks to the art of editing, this is also how reality shows often depict birth. In true reality, labor is broken up into several stages.
After the initial stage of labor moves from light contractions to stronger ones that last a minute or more, the cervix may start to open and efface. This is when the woman should head off to the hospital.
The first stage of labor starts with light contractions that come at 20 to 25-minute intervals. These contractions may only last 15 to 30 seconds, but the woman will soon realize there is a pattern to the pain. Once the pattern is recognized, heading to the hospital may seem like the next best step.
Stage one of labor can last a long time and most doctors and hospitals will just send mom back home until the contractions start getting stronger and closer together.
After the initial stage of labor moves from light contractions to stronger ones that last a minute or more, the cervix may start to open and efface. This is when the woman should head off to the hospital. There is still plenty of time before birth, so there is no need to race through red lights and stop signs.
The second stage of labor progresses faster than the first and soon the contractions last up to two minutes and occur every two minutes. If the woman is not at the hospital by the time contractions are two minutes apart, it may be time to call the ambulance because the baby is coming.
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