Every labour is different for every woman. Sometimes it can feel like a breeze, other times it can feel like it will never end. It can test your physical and emotional stamina, but being prepared and understanding the stages of childbirth can mean everything.
Stage 1: Early Labour and Active Labour
The first stage of labour and childbirth happens when you start to feel regular contractions. This causes the cervix to open and soften. This will allow the baby to move through the birth canal with as little resistance as possible. Labour is generally the longest stage of birth, broken down into early labour and active labour.
Throughout early labour, your cervix opens and softens and you will feel mild and infrequent contractions.
You may notice a pink, clear and slightly bloody discharge from your vagina. This is often the mucus plug that blocks the cervix throughout the pregnancy.
How Long Does Early Labour Last?
It is hard to say how long early labour lasts. It can vary from hours to days for many women but is usually shorter after your first birth.
What Can You Do During Early Labour?
For a lot of women, early labour isn’t the most comfortable experience. Until your contractions become more regular and intense, you can do whatever you like. Just try to stay relaxed though. Some things you can do include:
- Going for a walk
- Listening to music
- Watching a movie
- Take a shower or bath
- Practice breathing exercises
- Change positions when you start to feel uncomfortable
Your obstetrician will advise you when to leave for the public or private hospital. If you experience substantial vaginal bleeding, call your obstetrician or gynecologist immediately.
Now is the hard part. Your cervix will dilate from 6 to 10 cm during active labour. The contractions you experience will become stronger, more frequently and regularly.
You may feel sick and experience muscle cramps. During this time, your water may break if it hasn’t already and you will feel pressure building in your back. Now is the time to head to the delivery primary care facility if you’re not on your way or there yet.
Your excitement will probably wane for a little bit as your labour progresses and pain builds. You can ask for pain medication if you want it. Your obstetric health care team will partner with you to make the best choice for you and your baby.
How Long Does Active Labour Last?
Active labour can last from four to eight hours and your cervix will dilate around 1cm per hour.
What Can You Do During Active Labour?
Look to your health care team for support. Breathing and relaxation techniques will help your growing discomfort. Ask your health team for suggestions and put your research to work.
Unless you have been told to be in a specific position, try these to help get more comfortable:
- Change positions
- Roll on a large rubber ball
- Take a warm shower or bath
- Take a walk
- Get a gentle massage between contractions
The last part of active labour can be intense and painful. Contractions can last up to 90 seconds at a time and will be much closer together. You will feel pressure in your rectum and lower back. Let your obstetric team know if you feel an urge to push.
This is important because you may not be fully dilated and can be dangerous. Pushing too soon may make you tired, cause your cervix to swell, and make the delivery last longer than it should. Breathe your way through contractions. The last transitional period can last from 15 to 60 minutes.
Stage 2: Birth of Your Baby
Your baby is ready to be born!
How Long Does Childbirth Last?
This stage can last from a few minutes to a few hours. First-time mums and those that get an epidural might take a little longer.
What Can You Do During Childbirth?
There is really only one thing you can do, push. Your obstetrician will coach you through and tell you when to push.
When you push, don’t push from your face, push from where it counts. Experiment with a few positions if possible.
You will then be asked to push more gently, slowing down gives your vagina more time to stretch and get ready to deliver babies. This is when the head will be delivered.
The rest of your baby’s body will follow soon after, airway cleared and the umbilical cord cut.
Stage 3: Placenta Delivery
The hard part is over, you’ve delivered your baby, but now it is time to deliver the placenta.
How Long Does Active Placenta Delivery Last?
This stage generally takes 5-30 minutes.
What Can You Do During Placenta Delivery?
Time to relax. Focus on your baby, try breastfeeding.
You may still have mild contractions, not as painful as before but still regular. You will be asked one more time to push which will deliver the placenta. You may be given some medication to encourage contractions and reduce bleeding.
All remnants of the placenta will be removed to prevent bleeding and infection.
Your uterus will then return to a normal size. Your health care team will massage your abdomen to ensure that your uterus feels firm.
You will then have a pelvic exam to determine whether you will need stitches or treatment in your vaginal area.
Looking for a Sunshine Coast Obstetrician?
If you need an experienced health care team that cares, Dr. Kelvin Larwood is a Sunshine Coast obstetrician and gynaecologist that provides friendly and professional one-on-one care. Book an appointment today.