As a first-time mom-to-be, the closer you get to your due date, the more anxious you may feel about your childbirth. You’re probably wondering what will happen during your delivery. The labor is the unique process that will allow you to hold your bundle of joy in your arm. Knowing the different stages of labor before it comes will help you understand what to expect so you can be ready when it happens.

What Is The Labor?

Labor is a physiologic process by which the fetus, the umbilical cord, the membranes, and the placenta are expelled outside the uterus. Every woman will experience unique labor. The labor may be different from one pregnancy to the next. It occurs in 3 stages.


  • The first stage of labor. It involves 3 phases: early or latent labor, active labor, and transition phase.
  •  The second stage of labor: pushing.
  • The third stage of labor: delivering the placenta.

The First Stage Of Labor

The first stage of labor is the longest. It can last anywhere from a few hours to a few days, especially for first-time moms. The first stage occurs when you begin to feel some contractions, which helps your cervix to thin(effacement) and open (dilatation).
This stage ends when the cervix is 10 centimeters dilated. The first stage is divided into 3 phases :

1. Early Labor Or Latent Phase Of Labor

During early labor, your cervix dilates from 0 to 4 centimeters. You’ll feel mild irregular contractions that are 15 to 20 minutes apart. The contractions will get stronger as time goes on until there are less than 5 minutes apart. During this phase, you might notice a clear or slightly bloody vaginal discharge.

What to do :
  • Force yourself to rest as much as you can.
  • Try to keep yourself busy. You can do some activities to help you relax, like listening to music, taking a bath or a shower.
  • Eat light foods and drink plenty of fluids.
  • Go for a walk.
  • Try breathing exercises.
  • Monitor your contractions.
  • Make sure you packed your hospital bag and your birth plan with you if you made one.

2. Active Labor

During active labor, your contractions will become stronger, longer, and closer together. The contractions may happen every 3 to 5 minutes, and they each last about 60 seconds. The contractions get so intense that you may not be able to talk or walk through your contractions. Your cervix will dilate from 4 to 7 centimeters. As your labor progresses, your water may break if it hasn’t already. Expect your contractions to speed up when your water breaks. It is also common to experience nausea and vomiting.

What to do:
  • Now is the time you should head to the hospital.
  • Slow breathing can be very helpful.
  • You could ask for pain relief like an epidural if you planned to take one.
  • If you don’t want any medications for your pain, your birth team will give you tips to help you cope with the pain.
  • You can also try to change positions.
  • Try hot or cold compresses.
  • Your support person can give you a massage.
  • Some hospitals have soaking tubs that can help you feel better.

3. Transition Phase

It is the final phase of the first stage of labor. During the transition phase, your cervix will dilate from 7 to 10 centimeters. This phase often lasts 30 minutes to 2 hours, yet it is the most painful and challenging part of most women’s labor. You may feel really tired and frustrated. You may also start having crampy legs and pressure in your back or an urge to push, similar to bowel movement.

What to do:
  • When you get to this phase, remember it is almost over! You will be able to hold your baby in your arm.
  • Continue deep, slow breathing between the contractions.
  • Keep changing positions. The more you move, the faster you will dilate to 10 centimeters, and you will be able to push.

The Second Stage Of Labor

This stage begins when your cervix is fully dilated(10 centimeters). This is the time you deliver your baby. During this stage, the contractions will continue. It will help your baby to come down through the birth canal.
The second stage of labor can last anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours. It is likely to be further extended if you are a first-time mom or have had an epidural. As your baby progress through the birth canal, you will feel more pressure and the urge to push. This stage ends when your baby is born.

What to do :
  • Your main job at the second stage is to push the baby through the birth canal.
  • Your healthcare team will encourage and coach you through the process.
  • Try to stay focus and push with all your energy when you feel the urge.
  • Try to rest between pushing.
  • Take a deep breath before and after each contraction.

If necessary, your doctor may have to perform an episiotomy. An episiotomy is a surgical incision between the anus and the vagina to make the opening of the vagina wider for the baby. An episiotomy is indicated when your baby needs to be delivered quickly. (1)

The Third Stage Of Labor

This stage is the final stage of labor. During this stage, the placenta (afterbirth) is delivered. After your baby is born, you will still have mild contractions to help the placenta detach from the uterus. You may be asked to push gently to expel the placenta. Once the placenta is delivered, your doctor will examine it to see any missing parts. If there is any remaining part, it must be removed to avoid bleeding and infection complications.
Your doctor will massage your abdomen to check if your uterus is firm. A Firm uterine contraction is necessary to close off the torn blood vessels in the placental bed and avoid excessive bleeding. (2)
The third stage is the shortest stage of labor, as it lasts about 5 to 20 minutes.
If you had an episiotomy or any vaginal tear, it will be stitched during the 3rd stage of labor.

What to do:
  • Hold your baby in your arm and cherish the moment.
  • You can try to breastfeed your baby if you like.
  • Rest

Now that you have given birth to your baby, your postpartum recovery has started. Your care team will continue to monitor you for a few hours to see if your uterus continues to contract and you don’t have excessive bleeding.

If any complications threaten your life or your baby’s life at any time during the labor or delivery process, your care team may perform a cesarean section (C-section). A C-section is a major surgery performed to deliver a baby through incisions in the mother’s abdomen and uterus.

References

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27399925/
  2. https://www.open.edu/openlearncreate/mod/oucontent/view.php?id=279&printable=1

 

 

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About the Author

Hermione M.

My name is Hermione. I am the founder of WomenH and I write about women's health, wellness, mental health, and personal growth. I created this platform to inspire women to take care of themselves mentally, physically, and emotionally to become their best selves. Thank you for stopping by.

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