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Stages of labor: What will happen during labor and delivery

Stages of labor: What will happen during labor and delivery
September 09
09:55 2014

You have landed on this page of our site that means you are either about to complete your 40 weeks or you have already completed 40 weeks and now you are looking for signs and stages of labor. Every woman’s experience of labor is different, therefore predicting how your labor will be like or what signs to look for can be difficult. However, there are some very common signs and stages, that you can look for in order to prepare yourself.

In general, there are three stages of labor:

  1. The first stage: In first stage, you will experience contractions that will make your cervix slowly open up. Generally, this is the longest stage
  2. The second stage: In second stage, your cervix is completely open and you deliver your baby. This is the stage of labor where you assist your baby pass through vagina by pushing with your contractions
  3. The Third stage: This is the final stage of the labor, and happens after the delivery. In this stage, your womb contracts and leads to placenta coming out of your vagina.
The first stage of labor: dilation
  • In this stage of labor, contractions happen. Contractions basically, help in opening up the neck of your cervix. First stage comprises of early labor, active labor and the transitional phase.
  • The cervix is closed, at the time of pregnancy, which helps in preventing infections.
    In the primary stage of labor, your cervix requires to mature and open up, so that you can deliver your baby. By the end of first stage, your cervix will open up fully with about 10 cm in diameter.
  • These changes occur in late pregnancy, before labor starts, especially if you are carrying your first baby. Hours or days before labor actually begins, your cervix may begin to adjust its position and soften, shorten and thin a bit.
  • During this stage, you might experience mild regular contractions, tummy ache or backache. Loose bowels and upset tummy are also some of the symptoms of first stage of labor.
  • Due to these changes, the mucus plug in your cervix may come out. This is also termed as show. Sticky, jelly like pink mucus is termed as a show. You may also notice some blood. Consulting your doctor is highly advised when you are losing more blood.
  • Early labor: At the time of early labor, your cervix begins to open and broaden. It will open and broaden to about 3 cm and 4 cm.
  • Active phase of labor: In this phase, contractions generally become more frequent, powerful, and longer. During this stage, your cervix becomes fully dilated to about 10 cm. If things move slowly and your waters haven’t already broken then doctor might suggest to break them to speed up the things.
  • Transitional phase: This is the stage when you move from first stage of labor to second stage, pushing stage. It generally begins when your cervix is 8 cm dilated and completes when it is fully dilated.
The second stage of labor:
  • Second stage is the “pushing” stage. In this stage, you will push your baby down your vagina (the birth canal), and welcome him or her in this world.
  • By choosing to deliver your baby in an upright position, you may have to push for lesser time.  Your baby will slide down easily due to gravity and open pelvis.
  • If you are delivering a second or third baby then the second stage can be as short as 5 or 10 minutes. However, if you are delivering your first baby, then it may take hours or even more if your baby needs to change the position a little.
  • Depending on your baby’s position, your midwife or doctor may advise you to get into lunge pose or squatting or kneeling on both hands and legs.
  • Low down in your pelvis, you may feel the pressure of your baby’s head. Push according to the urges. In between pushes, take a few breaths.
  • Your baby will move through your pelvis slightly, with every session of coming down, but by the end of contraction, he will perhaps slip back a little. Don’t worry. As long as your baby is steadily descending, you are doing nice.
  • You are quite likely to feel a hard, hot sensation, when your baby’s head is far down in your pelvis. As the opening of your vagina begins to stretch, around your baby’s head, you are likely to feel stinging sensation.
  • Your midwife may advice you to stop pushing once he or she will be able to see your baby’s head. You may be advised to take short, panting breaths, in order to resist your urge to bear down for few contractions, so that your baby is delivered slowly and gently.
  • Your baby’s head is more likely to come out of your vagina, unless he or she is breech. His shoulders and rest of the body will follow at the next contraction. Though, some women deliver their baby in one go.
    Once the baby is delivered, your doctor will offer him or her a quick towel dry and then tenderly scoop him or her on your chest or tummy.
  • These first few moments with your baby are precious, take your time and stare him or her for hours.
The third stage of labor:
  • The third stage of labor starts once you deliver your baby and completes when you deliver the placenta and the empty bag of waters connected to the placenta.
  • After some time you will again start to experience your contractions. This time, they will be weaker, and are caused as your uterus contracts down.
  • The placenta will slowly shed away from the wall of uterus and may feel the need to push again. The membrane attached placenta, will drop to the bottom of your uterus and out via your vagina.
  • Some hospitals also give injection to make placenta come out, so that you don’t have to do any pushing (managed third stage). However, there are some side effects of managed third stage like vomiting, nausea, and heavier blood loss later.
  • Once placenta and membranes are detached, your doctor will gently pull it out.
    If the first two stages were normal and everything went well, choosing a natural third stage is advised.
    In general, both the natural and managed third stage takes same time. Getting into upright position can also assist in shortening a physiological stage.
  • Whether you have managed or natural third stage of labor, it is likely to have delayed cord clamping, which can benefit your baby. Delayed cord clamping means your baby will be attached to the placenta via the umbilical cord for some more time. The blood flow then persists to pass from the placenta to your baby before the doctor clamps the cord.
  • Your doctor will also check if everything is removed safely and will also check your tummy to find how your uterus is contracting to stop the bleeding from the area where the placenta was attached.
  • When all the stages of labor is complete, you may be able to stay in the birth room for some time, which you can spend to get to know your newborn. When experiencing any pain or contractions, consulting your doctor is highly recommended.

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