Contractions at Different Stages of Labor?

How far apart are contractions at the different stages of labor?
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profile picture of Robert Wool, MD
Updated March 2, 2017
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You probably know that labor doesn’t usually happen all at once — your body naturally goes through a few different stages before you and baby meet face to face.

In the early stage of labor, contractions typically last about 30 to 45 seconds, with anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes of rest between contractions. You don’t have to panic to get to the hospital or birthing center, but you should start to prepare yourself, especially if your contractions are growing more intense, lasting longer, and/or happening closer together.

In active labor, contractions typically last about 45 to 60 seconds, with just 3 to 5 minutes of rest between each one. They’ll feel longer and stronger. If you haven’t already, this is the time to get to your birthing center or hospital.

Finally, in the transition phase, which lasts until the cervix is fully dilated, or about 10 centimeters, contractions usually last about 60 to 90 seconds, with just 30 seconds to 2 minutes rest between each. They’re usually intense and can even overlap.

Once you enter the next phase of labor (your cervix is fully dilated and you’re ready to push) contractions last about the same — 45 to 90 seconds with 3 to 5 minutes of rest between — and you’ll feel a strong urge to push. Rest between your contractions to gather your strength, because you’re heading to the home stretch!

Please note: The Bump and the materials and information it contains are not intended to, and do not constitute, medical or other health advice or diagnosis and should not be used as such. You should always consult with a qualified physician or health professional about your specific circumstances.

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