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It has been my experience that the stages model of labor is not based on good theory or research and does not accurately describe how labor truly works.

Instead, I propose a different model of labor.  I’ve outlined the major differences. This is a more accurate way to describe labor.

Stages of Labor

Labor contains distinct stages.

“True” labor is defined by cervical dilation.

Labor is characterized by a steady increase in


Labor and birth can be predicted by how far

dilated a mother is and how often they are


Your body should follow the curve regardless of

emotional aspects.

Cervical dilation gives you the ability to

determine when a woman should deliver.

A pathologic labor is one in which it is not

dilating at a specific speed.

All women follow the same pattern.

 Progressive Model of Labor

Labor has very indistinct starts and stops.

Cervical dilation is only one of the signs of


Labor is characterized by plateaus and hills of


Labor and birth are unpredictable

Emotional aspects play a role in the ability to


Specific signs (including cervical dilation) are an

indicator of progress, though cannot determine the

length of labor.

A pathologic labor is one in which either mother

or baby is in distress.

Each woman has a unique labor pattern.

Follow Rachel Leavitt:

Rachel has worked as a register nurse (BSN from University of Utah) since 2004 with a work history in Labor and Delivery, NICU and Postpartum Care. She is also the founder of New Beginnings Doula Training which she organized in 2011. When she's not busy being a mother and grandmother, she can be found reading research papers related to some aspect of childbirth.

One Response

  1. Janessa
    | Reply

    This is great, I truly appreciate this distinction!

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