Normal Labor And Stages

Subject: Midwifery and Obstetrics Nursing  


Labor is the process by which fetus, placenta and the membranes are expelled through the birth canal.


Series of event that takes place in the genital organs of a pregnant lady in an effort to expel the viable product of conception from the womb to the exterior through vagina is called labor.

Definition of normal labor:

Normal labor is the physiological process of spontaneous, uncomplicated and per vaginal expulsion of a mature fetus with vertex presentation, followed by after births of umbilical cord, placenta and membranes without any undue delay.

Normal labor in primigravida is completed by about 12 hours and that in multigravida by 6 hours.

  • Preterm labor – Prior to 37 weeks
  • Term – 37 to 42 weeks
  • Post term – After 42 weeks
  • Post dates – After 40 weeks

Criteria of normal labor (Eutocia) Labor is called normal if it fulfills the following criteria-

  • The labor is started spontaneously at term (37-42 completed weeks).
  • Fetus with vertex presentation.
  • Without undue prolongation.
  • Natural termination without any aid or with minimal aid (episiotomy).
  • Without any complication affecting the health of the mother or the baby.

Abnormal labor ( Dystocia): Any deviation from the definition of normal labor is called abnormal labor.

Stages of normal labor: Conventionally, events of labor are divided into 4 stages-

  1. First stage:

It starts from the onset of true labor pain up to the full dilation of the cervix. Normal duration of this stage is 12 hours in primigravida and 6 hours in multigravida. It is also called “Cervical Stage” of labor.

      2. Second stage: 

It starts from the full dilatation of the cervix up to the expulsion of fetus through birth canal. Maximum duration is 2 hours in primigravida and 1 hour in multigravida.

      3. Third stage: 

It comprises the phase of placental separation. It begins from birth of baby to complete expulsion of placenta along with umbilical cord and membranes. Maximum duration is 30 minutes both in primigravida and multigravida & average is 15 minutes.

     4. Fourth stage

It is the stage of observation for at least one hour after expulsion of placenta. During this period, general condition of the patient and the behavior of the uterus are to be carefully watched.