Giving birth

Giving birth: The four stages of labour

With your new baby on his way, you're probably wondering what to expect when you go into labour. From start to finish, here are the four stages of labour.

Giving birth: The four stages of labour

Photo: iStockPhoto

Stage 1 of labour: Active labour

Contractions become stronger, longer and closer together. The cervix is definitely dilating now, at a rate of about one centimetre per hour. From four centimetres onward, you're in active labour.

Stage 2 of labour: Transition

For many women, this is the toughest part of childbirth. Contractions are one on top of the other as your cervix dilates to 10 centimetres. You may feel you can no longer cope, or even start vomiting or trembling (especially in your legs). It's also normal to feel flushed, overwhelmed and panicky. Thankfully, transition is usually the shortest stage of labour.


Stage 3 of labour: The pushing stage

When the cervix is fully dilated, and the baby's head has descended, you're ready to push. Most women feel a strong urge to push that can almost be impossible to resist, coming in several surges through each contraction. Each push moves the baby a little bit forward, but when the contraction ends, the baby slides back. When the baby's head crowns at the entrance of the vagina, you'll feel a burning sensation as the skin stretches. With another contraction or two, the head will emerge. Once the shoulders are out, the rest of the baby usually slips out quickly. Your baby is here!

Stage 4 of labour: Delivering the placenta

Even after your baby is born, your labour isn’t quite over. The umbilical cord will be clamped and cut. You’ll experience a few more contractions as you deliver the placenta.

This article was originally published on Mar 14, 2018

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