How is labor defined?

Updated: Jan 24, 2019
  • Author: Sarah Hagood Milton, MD; Chief Editor: Christine Isaacs, MD  more...
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Answer

Answer

Labor is a physiologic process during which the products of conception (ie, the fetus, membranes, umbilical cord, and placenta) are expelled outside of the uterus. Labor is achieved with changes in the biochemical connective tissue and with gradual effacement and dilatation of the uterine cervix as a result of rhythmic uterine contractions of sufficient frequency, intensity, and duration. [1, 2]

Labor is a clinical diagnosis. The onset of labor is defined as regular, painful uterine contractions resulting in progressive cervical effacement and dilatation. Cervical dilatation in the absence of uterine contraction suggests cervical insufficiency, whereas uterine contraction without cervical change does not meet the definition of labor.


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