stages of labour

As you get closer to your due date, many questions about giving birth and the stages of labour may arise.

It's normal to feel this way, since you are at a point where the eagerness to hold your baby in your arms for the first time may mix with anxiety, especially if this is your first pregnancy. In order to be more prepared, it's important to know how the whole process works before, during and after going into labour, and that's why we want you to run through the course of events that await you by reading this post.

Here you'll find the most remarkable and useful information about the three stages of labour, from early labour to the delivery of the placenta. What you are going to read is what will happen if you have a childbirth free of any complications, like an emergency C-section – which is what is likelier to happen! Are you ready for the ride?


Stages of labour: The first stage of labour

The big moment that you've been waiting for is about to happen, but first you'll have to leapfrog through the signs of labour and the early stages of labour, which can be divided into three phases: the early labour or pre-labour, the active labour and the transitional stage.

  • Early labour: it usually starts between 38 to 72 hours before going into labour, and it's characterised by mild contractions that come at intervals of about 20 minutes, along with 'bloody show', which happens when you discharge the blood-tinged mucus plug through your vagina. Basically, the cervix is gearing up by shortening and dilating little by little, but also by shifting its position so that it points more towards your front. This isn't a painful stage and it can lead to confusion, since such early contractions don't feel that different from Braxton Hicks contractions, which usually take place a few weeks before giving birth. During early labour, which lasts until the cervix widens around 3 cm, you are expected to be home but you don't necessarily have to change your routine. If you feel anxious, try doing some relaxation exercises. Just think that you may have a long night and day ahead of you.

  • Active labour: when the early or latent stage is over, you'll notice that contractions become stronger, more painful and more frequent, every three or four minutes, and can last up to 60 seconds. Your cervix will keep dilating from four to eight hours more, but by now you should call your doctor and midwife, and be moved to the hospital or whatever the chosen place is.

  • Transitional stage: once your cervix is about 8 cm dilated, you'll enter what's known as the transitional stage, which will resume until your cervix is fully open (10 cm). It can take from minutes to hours, depending on how smooth dilation goes; it's usually faster for those women who have already had a vaginal birth. If you haven't asked for pain relief before (epidural), this is the time to do so, since contractions will probably be way stronger and harder to cope with. That, of course, if you want it! A good piece of advice is to shift birthing positions until you find one that provides you with some relief and that allows for a comfortable delivery. Keep in mind that, at this point, it may be hard for you to talk, since you'll have to invest your energy in breathing well.

You need to take into consideration that the early stages of labour will change if your water breaks. If that's the case, you should go to the hospital right away. Also, if you show any signs of labour before being 37 weeks pregnant, don't hesitate to seek medical help as well, since you may be in preterm labour.


Stages of labour: The second stage of labour

Among the stages of labour, the second is the climax. Finally, you will be fully dilated, so it won't take long for you to feel rectal pressure, as your baby moves down the birth canal. Contractions may give you more breaks now, which should help you catch your breath after the previous effort. Whenever you feel ready, you can start pushing at the same time that contractions strike, so that you can rest and take breaths in between.

This stage of labour, which tends to last around an hour, may be rough and painful (if you make it here without pain relief), but remember that your midwife will assist you the whole time. If you feel the need to change to a different birthing position, ask for help and do it! Gradually, your baby will move further down your pelvis, being also helped by your uterus, which will push him down the birth canal with every contraction. If you are having problems to deliver, you could have an episiotomy, a surgical cut in the perineum (the body part between your vagina and anus) that is made to enlarge the vaginal opening. This is done to prevent the vagina tearing itself, which would be worse than having this controlled cut.

At a certain point, you may be asked to push more gently to prevent your perineum from tearing, until the baby's head is finally visible, the so-called 'crowning'. Little by little, his forehead will emerge and you'll be able to catch a glimpse of your precious son or daughter. The doctor may feel his neck to make sure the umbilical cord isn't around it before the baby makes it out of the womb with, probably, the next contraction. Congratulations!! You have just become a mum!


Stages of labour: The third stage of labour 

If there aren't any complications, you'll be able to enjoy the first skin to skin contact with your munchkin, who will be covered with a warm blanket to keep him 'toasty'. Immediately, his umbilical cord will be clamped and cut by the caregiver or even by your partner, if he's willing to do so. It sounds like a happy ending, doesn't it? Well, we are sorry to tell you, but it isn't yet. Soon after giving birth, you'll experience new uterine contractions, but don't worry. It's just your body trying to expel the placenta, which will peel away from the uterine wall. You may have to push again to speed this process, but it shouldn't take more than five or ten minutes. 

When the placenta and membranes are out, you may be checked to ensure that you got rid of it all and that your uterus is starting to contract and become firm. That is essential to prevent the blood vessels located where the placenta was attached from bleeding.


Stages of labour: What happens next? 

Once the third stage of labour is over, you'll be able to breastfeed, as long as the milk supplies are ready and the baby is willing to nurse. You can try getting his lips close to your breast, but if he's not interested, don't worry. Most newborn babies don't suckle their first milk intake until after their first hour of life. While that happens, you may be given oxytocin to help the uterus contract and you'll also be treated to stop your bleeding, in case it's excessive. 

It's normal for you to have mild contractions, commonly known as afterbirth pains, once you've got rid of your placenta. These may stop in a few minutes, but they can occasionally last for one or two days. Finally, in case you needed an episiotomy, the cut will need to be stitched up while you are marvelling at your little one.


Briefly, giving birth is a complex process that involves many components. The stages of labour have their own particular rhythm, and you can't forget that. For example, it would not make sense if you started pushing before your cervix was wide open. Also, remember that the timing described in this post is only indicative; an average of what's expected under normal circumstances, but every delivery is unique. As unique and special as your baby will be from the moment he makes his grand entrance into life.


Need help? Ask other mummies in CaptainMums' forum!


Overall Rating (0)

0 out of 5 stars

Leave your comments

Post comment as a guest

  • No comments found

Activity Stream

jollyhersblog started a new discussion Swtor2credits provide 60%off ... yesterday

Dropcam's wireless camera has a a 107 degree field of view, swtor buy credits and includes motion and sound alerts. Y cam Solutions' HomeMonitor lets you see live views from in home cameras, including infrared at night. Cloud based un an des jeux olympiques de 2016 The Angels came to take Evelyn's Soul on Saturday (July 30, 2005). Evelyn was the...

Polina45 started a new discussion How Hard Is It to Get Pregnant... yesterday

Hello everyone, today I would like to ask you about choosing the right time for your pregnancy, what do you say?...

Polina22 added a reply in discussion My bump hasn't grown... 5 months ago

Hello everyone, today I would like to tell you about Pregnancy Weeks Calculator. Who used it? In my opinion it is very convenient....

Polina22 is now ranked up to New Member... ! 5 months ago
Cooper Boothby added a new comment in Baby growth spurts: All you need to know 6 months ago

Guardians of the kids can give better health growth to bodies of babies with use of some useful tips from here. I get lots of benefits with hire of writer that do my research paper according to my assigned topic of subject.

Madison Lewers added a new comment in Baby bad breath: Why does it happen? 6 months ago

Thanks for sharing such important information, god gives me recently with a baby and I am facing this breath problem. I am CEO of best assignment writing services and I have gotten a lot of help from your blog to tackle this situation.

Parents can get better help for the cure of acne problems of kids with read of this article from here. Hire professional writers for your work from here that is reliable platform for finders of services.

Baby have its own desire if such one in the months then different form of desire allow for having such ideal need and having fun time. The food and toys are according to age and months. The quality essay as it pay to have research paper written in ac

Pearl147 started a new discussion Breast implants while breastfe... 9 months ago

Hi all, I am a mother of a 2-month-old baby. I would like to know if I can consider getting breast implants now. My breasts are kind of very small and I was thinking about it since my high school. After marriage, I talked about this to my husband and he was very supportive as he also preferred plus sized ones. During pregnancy, I did not undergo t...

monica987 started a new discussion Is it safe to breastfeed while... 10 months ago

Hi!! I have been diagnosed with gestational diabetes during my pregnancy period. My OB/GYN said it is common to have this as the placenta makes hormones that can lead to sugar in the blood. He also said that after delivery I won't have diabetes. It's been 1.5 years after delivery and I thought of undergoing mommy makeover surgery from a clinic in...

Marina22 Hello everyone, I want to know more information on the subject of the 13th week of pregnancy, what can you say?
4 months ago
Kristenevan commented on the album Evan 10 months ago
Kristenevan shared a photo. 10 months ago
Kristenevan added a reply in discussion 6 week old on friday ... 10 months ago

Does she also arch her back ? Can you lay him down after a feed and she keeps it down or does she spit up when laying aswell? My son projectile vomited after each feed , done everything in my power to see if it was my milk/formula doing it.. turns out he has acid reflux and he's now on infant gaviscon sachets and ranitidine oral solution , worth a...

Kristenevan is now ranked up to New Member... ! 10 months ago
Kristenevan added a reply in discussion 6 week old on friday ... 10 months ago

Does she also arch her back ? Can you lay him down after a feed and she keeps it down or does she spit up when laying aswell? My son projectile vomited after each feed , done everything in my power to see if it was my milk/formula doing it.. turns out he has acid reflux and he's now on infant gaviscon sachets and ranitidine oral solution , worth a...

Tonianne129 started a new discussion Feeding... 10 months ago

My baby girl is now just over 4 months old but was 5 weeks premature. She weighs around 9lbs and a half now. Over the past week or so she's been megga greedy. The other day she had a 10 oz bottle in 1 and was still wanting more. The day after she took 25oz in 8 hours, that's more than she should have in 34 hours! Health visitors have advised not to...

Kristenevan My son is coming up for 14 weeks , he has bad acid reflux and on medication but he's constantly hungry and he's on aptimal hungrier milk taking 7oz... Show more 10 months ago
monica_chou started a new discussion Is it safe to undergo laser ha... 10 months ago

Is it safe to undergo laser hair removal during breastfeeding? My brother's marriage is on June 11, 2017, and I want to look the best. I hate hair on my arms, legs, and face. During pregnancy, I did not undergo this procedure as I was told not to do it by my OB/GYN. I shaved during that time. I don't want to do it again. I'm planning to consult a...

Ancuta alexandra has liked an Album 10 months ago
Ancuta alexandra shared a photo. 10 months ago
Ciobanitaraluca added a reply in discussion 6 week old on friday ... 10 months ago

After feeding keep him up and massage his back to help him burp and what i do with my daughter is an advise from my mom she raised me the same is a good thing to give baby after every meal at least 1 sip of tea.Atention:no sugar or sweetners in tea and i recommend PUKA DETOX from tesco with anissed fenel and cardamom these plants helps for colics a...

jada1 added a reply in discussion Eating problems... 10 months ago

not at all dear being mummy is not as easy as it is considered to be lol, however dont worry sometimes morning sickness even lingers up to 40th week so be composed and never ever skip any of your meal no matter what you feel after that as it is important for you as well as for the little life, to deal with dizziness I recommend "no to morning sickn...

jada1 is now ranked up to New Member... ! 10 months ago
jada1 added a reply in discussion 6 week old on friday ... 10 months ago

is she on formula?????...

ashley1 added a reply in discussion Morning sickness... 10 months ago

exactly your baby relies on you for his diet so be careful about it, morning sickness is a general symptom which every mom has to suffer from for a while during pregnancy, be composed as there are certain things that can really effectively subside it like "no to morning sickness tea" is a great curative drink for morning sickness, try it and feel b...

ashley1 is now ranked up to New Member... ! 10 months ago