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Syn: labor. The process of giving birth. The process has three stages. The first is the onset of strong rhythmic contractions of uterine muscle, with dilation of the cervix and, usually at this stage, rupture of the membranes comprising the amniotic sac (“breaking the waters”); this leads to descent of the fetal head into the birth canal, full dilation of the cervix, appearance of the fetal head at the vulva, and birth of the neonate. The third stage is separation and delivery of the placenta. The entire process may take anything from a few minutes to a few days. Usually the process is normal, but it can be complicated and go wrong in many ways, including malposition, malproportion of fetal head and maternal pelvis, infection, hemorrhage, shock, and eclampsia.

Subjects: Public Health and Epidemiology.

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