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Home   Pregnancy Blog   The 3 Stages Of Labour

Welcome to PregnancyChat, I’m Monica and Today we are going to talk about the 3 stages of labour.

A Glimpse into the 3 Stages of Labour

Labour officially begins when you are having regular contractions and your cervix is 3-4 cm dilated. Anything before this point is considered to be pre-labour or the latent period. Pre-labour is an important process as it begins to prepare your body for the birth.

During pre-labour, your cervix softens and begins to dilate. You experience irregular uterine contractions as your uterus prepares for labour.

Though important, pre-labour is not one of the stages of labour, and your healthcare provider is unlikely to want to see you until you are in the first stage of labour.

The First Stage Of Labour

The first stage of labour dilates your cervix from four to 10cm.

This process can last on average, anywhere from six to 20 hours for a first time mother. As a general rule, the cervix is said to dilate 1cm each hour during a first labour.

For subsequent labours, the first stage usually lasts from two to 10 hours. These time frames are averages, and it is important to note that labour varies from woman to woman and pregnancy to pregnancy.

The first stage is usually the longest of the three stages of labour.

When your labour begins, your contractions will last around 45 to 60  seconds and will be occurring every five to seven minutes.

By the end of the first stage, your contractions will be longer, stronger and more frequent coming every 2 to 3 minutes.

You should contact your healthcare provider when you enter the first stage of labour. You will be asked a few questions, and then your healthcare provider will decide what should happen next.

As a general rule, when you are no longer able to talk through contractions and are coming every 5 minutes they will advise you to travel to hospital. If you have opted for a home birth, they will send someone out to you at this point.

What To Do During The First Stage Of Labour

During the first stage of labour, you should:

-time it – use a phone app, or old fashioned pen and paper, to record the timings of your contractions. This way you’ll be able to see how far apart your contractions are. Ask your birth partner to record the information so that you can focus on labour.

-exercise – gentle exercise such as a walk around the block, or bouncing on a birthing ball, can help you to manage any discomfort caused by the contractions.

-stay upright – by staying upright, you can use gravity to your advantage.

-Try leaning, squatting or sitting upright to help the baby travel down the birth canal.

-belly dance

belly dancing, or a simple rotating of the hips, can help to get the baby into position for the birth.

– breathe

focus on your breathing, and use breathing techniques to stay calm during and between contractions.

Gentle Exercise

What To Do During The First Stage Of Labour:

Time It

Gentle Exercise

Stay Upright

Leaning or Squatting

Belly Dance



Transition is the final stage of the first stage of labour. During transition, your cervix dilates from 8 to 10 cm, this happens just before you reach the second stage.

By this point, your contractions will be close together and very intense. They arrive every 2 to 3 minutes and last for 60 to 90 seconds. For many, this is where the hard work truly begins.

Some women report zoning out at this point, and feeling completely focused on the contractions. There are a number of stress reactions that are not uncommon such as nausea,

vomiting, perspiration, shivering, and exhaustion.

Some women lose all inhibitions and start to shout and swear and refuse every touch. Another common occurrence during transition is for women to announce they’re not doing it

anymore and try to leave. Healthcare providers are trained to notice the signs of transition, and will know how to help you keep going.

You may feel an overwhelming urge to push during transition, but don’t until your healthcare provider advises you too.

Throughout the first stage, your healthcare provider will be monitoring your dilation to see how your labour is progressing. Pushing before you are 10cm dilated can cause

complications, so you must resist the urge to push until told otherwise.

To stop yourself pushing during contractions, you can try breathing techniques such as ‘puff and blow’. Your healthcare provider will be able to talk you through useful breathing techniques to help you manage the contractions.

The Second Stage Of Labour:

The Pushing Stage

The second stage of labour is also known as ‘the pushing stage’.

Once you are 10cm dilated, it is time to start pushing to deliver the baby. This stage can last from just a few minutes to around two to three hours for the average labour.

By the end of the second stage of labour, you will have met your baby.

During transition, you will be fighting back the urge to push.

All of a sudden, your healthcare provider will give you the green light and you’ll be expected to start bearing down to deliver your baby. Contractions usually slow down during

the second stage, giving you the chance to rest between pushes.

Rather than one long push during a contraction, experts now advise giving a burst of shorter, repeated pushes. Some women count to 10 while pushing, then stop, and repeat this

process until the contraction is over.

With each contraction, you will be pushing your baby further down the birth canal. When you stop pushing, you may feel your baby move up again slightly, this can be frustrating but is a normal part of labour.

Once your baby’s head reaches the opening of vagina (also known as crowning), you will feel a stinging or burning sensation.

This is your skin stretching to accommodate your baby’s head. At this point, you will be instructed to stop pushing. This is to give your skin time to stretch slowly. Try a series of short, rapid exhales to help you fight the urge to push.

Once your baby has crowned, it may take a few more big pushes to get the head out. The shoulders and head then turn sideways to allow your baby’s body to pass safely through the

birth canal. With just a few more pushes, you should meet your baby.

What To Do During The Second Stage Of Labour

During the second stage of labour, you should:

– stay upright – if possible, you should utilise gravity in labour. Standing, leaning or squatting in an upright position can help your baby to travel down the birth canal.

– bear down – when you are pushing during a contraction, slow controlled pushing is best as this allows the perineum to stretch gradually to prevent tears. Don’t tense your face or shoulders, just use your lower body muscles to their maximum capacity.

– relax – try to relax between contractions. Labour is hard work, but you’re almost at the end.

– breathe – breathing techniques can help to keep you calm during and between contractions. Ask your birth partner to help you with your breathing during this stage.

– change position – if you feel uncomfortable, change position. Simply altering what you’re doing can help to alleviate discomfort.

– trust your body – women have been giving birth for generations. Put your trust in mother nature and believe that you can do this. Feelings of anxiousness and fear can lead to

longer labour times, so try to stay relaxed and confident throughout.

– focus all of your energy on pushing and not pushing, when necessary. If your doctor or midwife wants you to hold off on pushing when you feel the urge use the blow breathing

method…this breathing is like the breath used to blow out a candle.

What To Do During The Second Stage Of Labour

Stay upright

Bear down



Change position

Trust your body


Third Stage Of Labour:

Delivering The Placenta

By this point, you should be holding your newborn in your arms. You may be breastfeeding him, or perhaps you are just staring into his eyes, amazed at how beautiful he is.

Whatever you’re doing, chances are you’ve forgotten all about the third and final stage of labour.

The third stage of labour is when you deliver the placenta, that amazing  organ that took care of your developing baby in the womb. Once your body realises you have delivered the

baby, your uterus will begin to contract to dislodge the placenta from the uterine wall.

Both skin to skin contact and breastfeeding can stimulate these contractions. As the uterus breaks away, the blood vessels in the uterine wall will seal to prevent bleeding.

Physiological third stage

Some women choose to have a natural third stage, also known as a physiological third stage. This means waiting for the placenta to be delivered naturally, which could take

between 15 minutes and one hour. Many parents choose to leave the umbilical cord intact during this phase, and only cut and clamp it after the placenta has been delivered.

Managed third stage

For other women, post-labour exhaustion takes over and an oxytocin hormone injection is used to speed up the third stage. Women who choose a managed stage may have the umbilical

cords clamped soon after birth, although they may choose to leave it intact longer if they wish.

The umbilical cord pulses for up to 10 minutes after the birth, as blood travels between

the placenta and the baby. Some women choose to keep the cord intact until after the pulsing has stopped.

You should let your doctor know in advance what you would like to do during the third stage. You can include it in your birth plan, but keep an open mind because it’s impossible to predict how you will feel on the day.

What To Do During The Third Stage

During the third stage, you can:

get acquainted:

while you are waiting to deliver the placenta, you have an opportunity to get to know your baby. Chances are you’ll be pretty overwhelmed at this point, and completely in awe of the

baby in your arms.

Once the placenta is ready to be delivered, your healthcare provider may ask you to hand the baby over so you can focus on pushing, now is the time for dad to start bonding with the baby.

skin to skin:

if you were wearing a top during labour, now is the time to take it off. Hold your newborn baby against your chest and enjoy some skin to skin contact. As well as stimulating the uterine contractions necessary for the third stage, skin to skin can regulate your baby’s body temperature, encourage bonding and have a positive effect on breastfeeding.


babies usually attempt their first feed within an hour of being born. You won’t be producing milk yet, but your breasts will be producing colostrum – a thick milk filled with antibodies and immunities. Breastfeeding will stimulate the uterine contractions to dislodge the placenta. Your healthcare provider will be able to advise you on the optimum position for breastfeeding, and help you to latch the baby on.

It may sound like an awful lot of hard work, but by the end of these three stages, you will feel a range of emotions … relief, excitement, even the disbelief that you are a mother.

What To Do During The Third Stage

Get acquainted

Baby in your arms

Skin to skin


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