Preparing to give birth is an exciting yet potentially scary time, especially if this is your first child. Although every pregnancy, mother and baby are unique, it can be helpful to know what the three stages of labour are, so that you can feel a little more prepared when the big day arrives.
In this article, we’ll explain the three stages of labour. Although it’s always best to speak to your primary care provider about your unique circumstances, this article will give you some insight about what happens as your baby arrives into the world!
While this isn’t one of the three stages of labour, your body will provide a number of physical cues that your labour is about to begin.
These signs include;
- A “show”, a sign that your cervix is beginning to dilate. A show looks like a mucousy blood stained vaginal discharge.
- Your waters are breaking. This could be a full-on gush or a slow trickle. Essentially you’ll feel like you’ve peed your pants!
- An urge to frequently go to the toilet to poop. This is because your baby’s head is putting pressure on your pelvis.
- Contractions that start slowly and build in frequency.
Early labour can stop and start, so it’s best to call your hospital or maternity care provider and let them know you’re in early labour. They’ll advise you as to when to come in. If you do go to the hospital right away you may be told to go home if your labour hasn’t progressed far enough yet.
There are three defined stages of labour
Now let’s take a closer look at the three stages of labour.
The first stage of labour is generally the longest stage, and it’s when your contractions start to grow stronger, more frequent and last longer.
The first stage of labour can last for around 12 hours, though it's sometimes less and sometimes more. Most women feel more relaxed if they stay home during this stage of their labour.
Second stage of labour (aka the delivery)
In order to reach the second stage of labour your cervix must be fully dilated to 10cm, this is when your baby will start moving out of the uterus. The second stage of labour is the hardest and usually takes around 2 hours.
The second stage of labour is when your contractions will give you a strong urge to push, so that your baby can move through your cervix and vagina to be born.
If there are problems pushing your baby out, an assisted delivery may be required. This could involve forceps or a vacuum extractor. If the baby’s heart rate is dropping or if your baby isn’t in the right position, an emergency caesarian may be required.
Third stage of labour
The third stage of labour refers to time between when the baby is born to when the placenta is delivered. An injection is usually offered to assist your placenta to separate from the wall of your uterus.
What happens after your baby has been delivered?
As soon as your baby has been successfully delivered, they will be placed on your chest so you can give them skin to skin contact.
You’ll also be encouraged to feed your baby soon after it is born if you plan on breastfeeding. Once both you and your baby are stable and well, you will then be transferred to the postnatal ward. You’ll then be discharged as soon as the hospital or birth centre deems it appropriate.
Want more information?
It’s only natural to want to feel as prepared as you can be before giving birth for the first time. Don’t be afraid to ask as many questions as you like to your primary care provider in the lead up to giving birth.
It’s a good idea to ask your partner (if you have one) to come along to your antenatal checks so that they can feel informed and part of the process too.
It’s a good idea to ask your own mother what her labour was like as this may give you some indication of what might happen for you too (though every pregnancy and birth is unique).
Lastly, it’s a good idea to read as much as you can about pregnancy, labour and giving birth so that you can feel prepared for what is to come.
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