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.