The three stages of labour

stages of labour

The three stages of labour: Getting ready for the big day

What is labor? Labor is the described as the contractions you get leading to the birth of your baby. But actually labor goes on till the birth of the placenta.

It always helps to know how the stages of labor so that you know how the birth is progressing, even in the midst of all the pain. Labor is divided in three stages:

  1. The first stage of labour: the opening of the cervix and the neck of the uterus.
  2. The second stage of labour: complete dilation of the cervix to 10 cms and onset of pushing till the baby is born.
  3. The third stage of labour: delivery of the placenta.

First Stage of Labour:

The first stage of labor, also called the latent period or the pre-labor, is known to be the longest. So much that it is broken down further into three phases of its own: Early, Active and Transitional.

Early labor, also known as the latent period or pre-labor, is the phase where the uterus starts to contract periodically, getting painful with each instance. Every woman is different and has her own rhythm. While some women may not feel any pains till the cervix is dilated enough, some others may feel the pains right from the beginning. To help deal with this phase, if you are comfortable, try to walk around or take a warm bath. You can also experiment with different positions to get as comfortable as possible. Try eating some carbohydrate rich foods such as rice, rotis, idlis, bread, pasta and so on, because very soon you are going to need as much energy as you can get to push the baby out.

In the active labor phase, the contractions are more frequent, stronger and longer. This is the time to apply all your prenatal yoga lessons. Make yourself as comfortable as possible and get yourself in a more positive mindset. Listen to the guidance offered by the doctor, and push only when the doctor or the team tells you to push. If your husband is with you in the delivery room, then seek his comfort. If it helps, you can release your tension either with a good cry or a good joke (trust me, a good laugh also helps!). If you still cannot handle the pain, talk to your doctor about some pain relief.

The transitional phase of early labor has the cervix finally dilated to 10 cm, and the contractions coming up one after another, with intensity increases as the body finally works to push the baby out. Relax as much as you can between two contractions.

Here are some tips to make the best of labor pains:

  • Don’t be embarrassed of the situation and your reaction to the pain. The staff in the delivery room is used to this situation and in fact, may have tips to ease your pain.
  • Breathe rhythmically; inhale between contractions and exhale when the pain increases.
  • If it makes you feel better, shout, groan or make a lot of noise! But don’t waste your energy in the same.

Second Stage of labour:

In the second stage of labor, you will feel the urge to push the baby out. Your baby is gradually slipping through the birth canal. With every contraction, your baby will move down the pelvis a little, but at the end of the contraction, he’ll slip back up again.

As mentioned before, the staff assisting you in the delivery is used to women in labor pains. There may be situations where they may shout at you to push stronger, it’s not to scold you or to put you down, but to encourage you. They may even path your thighs with the same objective. If you are not comfortable with this method of encouragement, talk to the staff to tone it down or find some other method to encourage you.

When your baby is far down in the pelvis, you may feel a hot stinging sensation, which is when your doctor may inform you that the baby has “crowned”. At this stage, your doctor may ask you to stop pushing strongly and only pant gently. This way the baby will be born gently and slowly, reducing the risk of tearing or episiotomy.

If you are a second time mother, this may take 5-10 minutes. If you are a first time mother, this process may take a few hours.

To ease yourself in these stage, try the following tips:

  • Ask your doctor if it is possible to keep you in a semi-reclined position, this way gravity can assist you in your delivery process.
  • Push when the contraction pain increases and let go when the pain decreases.
  • If you have had an epidural, ask your doctor to guide you when to push.

Third Stage of labour:

In the third stage of labour, you will deliver the placenta. After delivering the baby, you will feel the contraction again but with much lesser intensity. These contractions cause the placenta to peel away from the wall of the uterus and drop down into the bottom of the womb. Delivering the placenta usually takes less than 15 minutes, but sometimes it takes up to an hour.

To help you cope with this stage:

  • By the time this stage arrives, you will probably be more excited to see the baby, and may not feel these contractions. Seeing and handling the baby, and offering the baby your breast might stimulate the hormones that help the placenta to separate.
  • Now that the birth is over, the adrenaline rush has drained and you will probably feel shaky, exhausted, sleepy or even hungry.
  • It is also possible that you may not be in a position to focus on the baby either due to exhaustion or if you are under painkillers or anesthesia of the C-section. It’s okay. Take your time to rest, so that you are in a better position to enjoy the new arrival.
  • If your baby is not interested in feeding and is instead just nuzzling, don’t worry. This is just like an initiation for your baby.