Okay, I will try and break it down the best I can... remember, I'm not a labor and delivery nurse, but I think I have enough knowledge there to maybe help some of you with some questions you might have. This will be a generalized break down of what you can expect. I'll try and explain some phrases or terms you may hear them say..etc. A full term pregnancy is considered to be 38 to 40 weeks. Of course you can go over the 40 week mark as well. I've never seen anyone go past 42 weeks... most deliveries are just shy of the 40 week mark. Most people that go into labor on their own tend to progress through the stages because their body is ready to labor. Those that have to be induced can sometimes take longer to get into a normal labor pattern because it is being coaxed by medication such as pitocin. Other drugs they use to help start labor are some cervical thinnning drugs called cytotec and cervadil. Cervadil looks a little like a miniature tampon. They insert it up near the cervical opening and leave it in place until the cervix begins to thin out. Here's some terms: EFFACED: They often use this term when they are describing how thin your cervix is becoming. Oddly enough they refer to it as the "ripening" or "softening" of the cervix. Ripening just sounds so ewwww...lol. DILATION: This is the phase where your cervix begins to "open". You start with "closed" and then go to "thick" and you might hear them say a "fingertip". The fingertip means that they can literally fit a fingertip in your cervix. Everyone dilates at different rates of speed. MOST gravida 1's (first pregnancy) tend to dilate a centimeter every hour to two hours. You might also hear them say a "loose" 3 or whatever number from 1-10. That just means that technically you're further than a 3 but not a 4 yet. In order for you to deliver.. you must be 100% effaced and at 10 centimeters. If you hear them say you have a "bloody show" don't panic.. it's just a term they often use to describe a small amount of blood tinged mucus or discharge that often occurs as your cervix begins to open up.. it's okay, nothing to worry about if you're full term and ready for birth. The only time that phrase is cause for worry is if you are premature because it can be a sign you are going into labor early. STATION: is a term used to describe the descent of the baby into the pelvis. An imaginary line is drawn between the two bones in the pelvis (known as ischial spines). This is the "zero" line, and when the baby reaches this line it is considered to be in "zero station." When the baby is above this imaginary line it is in a minus station. When the baby is below, it is in a "plus" station. Stations are measured from -5 at the pelvic inlet to +4 at the pelvic outlet. So, if you hear them say your baby is at -4 station.. it simply means your baby is still high up in the pelvis. In the begining.. your contractions won't be so bad, you might even think "hmmm.. this isn't bad at all" But don't let that fool you. Take advantage of the not so bad contractions and get some much needed rest. You will need to muster up every ounce of energy you have to push that baby out and it's hard work. Imagine yourself running a marathon AFTER you've been up for 18 hours and did all your spring cleaning and laundry you had piled up... are you gonna feel much like running a marathon.. I would say not. So... PLEASE get as much rest as you can and conserve that energy for when you will need it most. There are 3 stages of labor. The first stage of labor is broken down into 3 phases. The first part is the "oh gosh, I'm in labor!" phase. Also known as "early labor" Some people hardly even know they're having contractions during this phase. This is when your cervix starts to thin out and you start to dilate. Your contractions may be anywhere from 5 to 15 even 20 minutes and can last 30 to 60 seconds. This part of labor is usually the longest part. The second phase of the first stage is "active labor". This is where you become more uncomforatable with the contractions. They can last 45 seconds to a minute maybe even longer than a minute and they're more severe with the intensity. You can expect them to come every 2 to 4 minutes or so. This is where your body will shift into a good labor pattern and you'll make more cervical changes. You might start to feel some pressure in your lower back area. The last phase of the first stage of labor is the "transition" phase. This is usually the quickest part of the first stage of labor but don't let that fool you... it's the hardest part. This is where your cervix finishes up dilating and thinning out. The contractions are severe and can feel like they're happening one on top of the other. This is where the pressure is strong in your back, vaginal area as well as your rectum. You might get sweaty and then be cold... this is very normal. Some people even vomit right when they are "complete" and being complete means you are ready to push. Okay, I will have to continue the next part because this is getting too long and it might not let me post it if it's too long.