Perhaps people might have told you about labor in a vaginal birth. They might have invariably talked about the pain involved and how difficult it could be. Unfortunately, this is what we usually hear while what goes untold or unheard of is the beautiful process of labor and birth.
Have you ever wondered how our body works magically or rather systematically to bring a new life out from the womb? The process of delivering a child is nothing short of a miracle. As a woman enters labor, she passes through three stages.
Stages Of Labor
Labor progresses in three stages. Let’s see what they are:
- The first stage: This is the longest part of labor and can last up to 20 hours. It begins with the onset of the true contractions and lasts until the cervix is dilated to 10cm.
- The second stage: It lasts from cervical dilation until the delivery of the baby.
- The third stage: The process of childbirth ends with the delivery of the placenta.
Stage 1 Of Labor
This stage marks the onset of the labor contractions that cause the cervix to soften and dilate. It involves three phases, namely early labor, active labor, and transition phase.
|Phases in stage 1 of labor||What’s happening||What you can do|
[ Read: Bradley Method Of Childbirth ]
When to call the doctor?
Call your doctor right away if:
- The water breaks.
- Abdominal pain gets severe and constant.
- The baby’s movement slows down or stops.
- You have bright red vaginal bleeding, which is not normal.
Stage 2 Of Labor
The second stage involves pushing the baby into the birthing canal and eventually delivering. This stage progresses as follows:
- The cervix is fully dilated (10cm) by this time.
- This stage lasts for one to two hours in the first-time mothers or longer than two hours if the mother and baby are coping with the contractions (4). Epidural can also prolong the length of the second stage of labor.
- Contractions get longer and stronger.
The pushing phase:
During this phase, the natural urge to push gets stronger. Along with that, you may also experience:
- Increased pressure in the perineum, rectum, and lower back.
- A strong bowel pressure.
- A burning or stretching feeling in the vagina due to crowning (the baby’s head moving down). At this stage, the woman is asked to stop pushing so that the perineum stretches gradually.
- Usually, there is a wait for the next contraction, then the baby is born.
- The baby comes out, usually with the head first.
What you can do:
- Try different positions — squatting, lying on your side with your leg up or resting on your hands and knees.
- Take deep breaths before and after each contraction.
- Curl into push as much as possible, this allows all of your muscles to work.
- Concentrate on the contractions and take a break in between.
- Try different positions while sitting, standing, or walking.
- If you get hot flashes, use cold face washer.
- Keep yourself hydrated by taking fluids.
[ Read: Baby Crowning ]
Stage 3 Of Labor
After the baby is born, the placenta is delivered in the third stage.
- The average time of the third stage of labor is six minutes (5).
- Labor stimulation, analgesia during labor, and cord drainage could prolong the phase.
- The contractions begin 5-10 minutes after childbirth and are mild and less painful.
- The vagina feels fuller as the placenta passes through.
- Chills and shivering are common while you are delivering the placenta.
What you can do:
- Stay relaxed.
- Ask the doctor, if you wish to see the placenta.
- Begin breastfeeding your baby after the delivery.
What Happens After The Labor?
After the placenta is delivered, the uterus will start to contract to regain its original size. Otherwise, the doctor injects an ecbolic (contracting drug) into your leg as soon as the baby’s shoulder is out. This injection speeds up placental separation from the uterus and helps the uterus to contract faster to reduce the blood loss.
In case of any tears in the vaginal area, the doctor will place the stitches by giving local anesthesia. This anesthesia will be given only if you did not get one during labor.
Frequently Asked Questions:
1. At what stage of labor is epidural given?
Epidural is given when you are 4-5cm dilated and have regular contractions. However, an epidural can slow down the contractions. In this case, Picotin will be given to speed up the labor.
2. What does it feel like when I start to dilate?
As the cervix dilates, it becomes softer. You can insert a finger into the vaginal opening that feels like soft lips. While doing this, you may probably feel the head of your baby.
3. Which stage of labor is the longest and how long does it last for?
The duration of labor varies from woman to woman. The first stage of labor is usually the longest and for the first time moms, it may last from 6-20 hours. However, in those who have had babies earlier, this stage could be quite shorter lasting for 2-10 hours. Moreover, if the cervix is not dilated properly or the fetus is not in the optimal position, then it is certain that the labor will get prolonged.
Isn’t it amazing to know that your body works with precision to bring the baby out into this world? When you are in labor, you wouldn’t know in which stage of labor you are. In fact, a study has found that most women, especially first-timers, didn’t know that there are several stages of labor (6). Ultimately, what matters is your well-being and your baby’s.
4. Do I have to get a cut or episiotomy?
You may experience a perineal tear, which could be sutured by your midwife or doctor. You might also have an episiotomy, if necessary, while pushing. An episiotomy is a procedure in which a small incision made in the second stage of labor to quickly enlarge the opening for the baby to pass through. It should only done in an urgent situation to make the opening wider for the baby. The incision is done at a 90 degree angle of the posterior perineum and sutured after. This will help in the delivery of your baby and prevent large irregular tears of vaginal walls.
[ Read: Lamaze Method Of Childbirth ]
Do you have an experience to share? Let us know about it in the comments section below.
- What Happens To Your Cervix During Birth Or Labor?
- Perineal Tear: Is It Common During A Vaginal Birth
- Baby Birth Positions And How To Correct Them?
- Things To Remember While Giving Birth To Twins
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