Although each labour is unique, there are some stages that all laborers follow. We will help you understand what to expect as you progress through your phases of labour.
Most pregnancies last about 40 weeks. During that time, your baby goes through several developmental milestones, and You, too. You will feel physical changes as your body goes through three stages of labour.
Labour is split up into 3 stages. Stage 1 typically lasts around 8 hours for a first birth. This stage is made up of early labour, active labour, and transition. The cervix effaces and dilates during this stage. Stage 2 lasts 30 minutes to 3 hours on average and starts when you are fully dilated. During this stage, you push your baby out of the uterus and into the world. Stage 3 follows right after the delivery while the body expels the placenta.
Labour- First Stage
The first stage of labour begins when your cervix starts to open (dilate) and ends when it is completely open (fully dilated) at 10 centimeters. Active labour usually lasts about 8 hours. Parts of the first stage are called Early Labour, Active Labour, and Transition.
Latent or Early Labour
Early or latent labour is the beginning of labour. Your contractions will become more regular, and you will have more frequent, stronger contractions that last 60 to 90 seconds. Your cervix dilates from 0 centimeters to 6 centimeters and thins out (effaces). Some discharges may be clear or slightly bloody. Once this phase is over, your body moves into active labour.
In the hours or days before you give birth, here are some things to do to make your labour easier: Take a stroll outside, change positions often, Practice breathing and relaxation techniques, Soak in a warm bath or take a warm shower, Rest if you can, drink lots of water and eat light foods, prepare for going to the hospital!
The active phase of the Labour
If you are in the Active Phase of labor, contractions are stronger and last longer as your cervix dilates (opens) from 6 to 8 centimeters. If your water has not broken yet, this is when it is most likely to happen — if it does, the contractions may get stronger too. You may also experience backache and bleeding from the vagina.
In this phase, you may have a more serious mood as you work through the contractions. Your support person will be even more valuable now. This phase usually lasts 4-8 hours.
The active phase begins when the cervix is fully dilated and ends with the birth of your baby. During this time, contractions become stronger, closer together, and longer. You may feel increasing pressure in your lower back, pelvis, and vagina as the baby continues to descend through the birth canal.
It is finally time! You have reached the active phase of labour. This is when you will be admitted to a hospital or birth center and hooked up to various monitors so your health care team can assess contractions as well as the baby’s heart rate and wellbeing.
You may be asked to limit what you eat and drink if your doctor thinks you may need a C-section with general anesthesia. Your doctor may place an intravenous (IV) line into your arm to deliver fluids and medications if necessary, during this time.
Some tips to help the active phase of labour:
The active phase of labour can be a challenge, but you can use several techniques to help you cope.
- Changing position regularly can help ease the discomfort of back labour while walking between contractions can speed them along.
- Making it through the active phase of labour is hard work, but there is light at the end of the tunnel! Keep pushing and stay hydrated. We are with you every step of the way.
- Although you may have a rough time in the active phase of labour, some ways to help with your comfort are by asking your birth partner for a gentle massage, listening to soothing music, or using breathing techniques.
- Each contraction brings you closer to holding your baby—and that is an amazing feeling. As labour progresses, try focusing on one contraction at a time.
The transition phase of the labour
Your cervix dilates from 8 to 10 centimeters, contractions are 2 to 3 minutes apart, and you may feel pressure on your rectum and your backache may feel worse. Bleeding from your vagina will be heavier.
The transition from early labour to active labour is the shortest phase, but it can feel like the longest. During this time, you will feel intense pain due to the great change that is happening as you near your delivery date. It may also be hard to distinguish where your pain is as contractions get stronger and closer together. Preparation for this phase has everything to do with staying positive and in control. Remembering these facts about the transition can help ease your worries: This phase is short although it can feel like forever; Contractions are longer and more intense; you will need to rely on help from your support partner a lot; Try not to lose focus, the transition is almost over.
Labour (Delivery) – Second Stage
In the second stage of labour, your cervix is fully dilated. This stage lasts until your baby passes through the birth canal and is born. Your contractions push the baby down and out of your uterus. The ring of muscle at the bottom of your uterus, called the cervix, is open about 10 centimeters (4 inches) for childbirth. You will have a strong urge to push (“bearing down”). You may feel pressure in the rectum. There may be a burning sensation as your skin stretches. Contractions (waves of uterine muscle contraction) make you feel like you must bear down or push.
The contractions become longer, harder, and more frequent. You may feel a strong urge to push with your contractions. Try to rest as much as possible between intervals of pushing and only begin to push when the health care provider tells you.
Some tips which can help you push:
- Take deep breaths in and out before starting to push and continue through the push and after each contraction.
- Curl into the push as much as possible; this allows all your muscles to work.
- Make sure you are using proper body mechanics. Focus on pushing with your abdominal muscles, not your legs or other body parts.
You are in the second stage of labour. This stage starts when you begin to push your baby out and ends with the birth. You may get pain-relieving medications or have an episiotomy if necessary while pushing. An episiotomy is a procedure in which a small cut is made between the anus and vagina to enlarge the vaginal opening.
Your baby’s head is at the zero station when it is in the middle of the birth canal and is engaged in the pelvis. The number, or station, given to the baby’s head tells you and your health professional how far it has descended into your pelvis. When the baby’s head has started its descent, it will be reported in a number called a station, but if the head has not started its descent and remains high in your abdomen it will be minus 3 (-3).
As soon as your baby is born, your health care provider will dry the baby and hold the baby with its head lowered to prevent any fluid from getting into the baby’s lungs. The baby’s mouth and nose will then be suctioned to remove any additional fluid. Your health care provider will wrap the baby in a blanket and place them on your chest or let you hold him or her. The umbilical cord will be cut shortly after the birth. The placenta will come out later while you are still in labour or after your baby is born.
Labour (Delivery of the Placenta) – Third Stage
The third stage of labour begins once you have given birth to your baby and ends when your placenta has been delivered. Find out what to expect in the third stage of labour.
When the baby is born, the cord is clamped and cut, or allowed to stop pulsing. The placenta separates from the wall of your uterus and moves through the cervix into your vagina. You may have a few contractions, but they are usually less painful than before delivery. After the placenta is delivered, your healthcare provider will look for any tears that might need stitches.
The third stage of labour is when you deliver the placenta and your uterus contracts back to its pre-pregnancy size. The placenta is typically delivered within 30 minutes, but it can take as long as an hour.
After you deliver your baby, whether, by vaginal delivery or surgical birth, you will experience several changes as your body returns to normal. You may feel intense emotions.
The moments that follow the delivery of your baby bring intense joy and pride. You cannot help but beam with happiness as you look on at your amazing little one. Your body has gone through so much, and recovery time is a necessity. This is a time to celebrate and to rest, with lots of help from your partner, family, and friends.
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