The Stages of Labour
Can last 1 hour, 1 day, 2 days, 3 days or sometimes more! Pre-labour is the action of ripening and then thinning the cervix. This can take place without a mum being aware but on the other hand sensations may build up over time turning into strong surges that can take your breath away. Women often go into hospital to discover they are still in the process of thinning and dilation has not yet begun. Often the thinning of the cervix and the first 3 centimetres can be the hardest work of labour.
Tips for Pre-Labour:
Take a bath or shower to ease the sensations of contractions
Rest, go back to bed if you can ton conserve energy
Eat and stay hydrated
Pee every hour or so to empty the bladder
Use hot water bottles on the back and tummy and aches and pains
Do normal things as per-labour can go on - go for a walk, watch a movie, have a cuddle
If pre-labour is dragging on try nipple stimulation, express colostrum, have sex, stay mobile don’t lie flat use gravity to put pressure on the cervix, walk
Stay at home as long as possible if hoping for less intervention
Clues to Active Labour:
Release of a mucous blood stained plug
If you take a warm bat in pre-labour things will normally slow down giving you time to rest if in active labour things may continue to speed up
Contractions get stronger and more intense coming closer together and lasting longer
As the cervix dilates blood may appear, often with more mucous. As long as this is not excessive it is normal.
Diarrhoea may occur but not always
Vomiting may occur but not always
Trembles or shakes may be present but not always
Waters may break but not always as this is more common during the latter stages of dilation
Mother feeling spaced out after a contraction, feels the need to move down, sit on a chair or kneel.
1st Stage of Labour:
Hospitals normally gauge the active stage of labour as 3cm dilated or greater. Do bear in mind it takes a huge amount of work to get to 3cm and things can move very quickly after that. Pre-labour or the first stage of active labour can be the toughest. During this dilation phase the cervix will open around the baby’s head which will be descending into the pelvis. The last 8-10 cm’s of dilation are called transition. This is the most intense part of labour. Contractions are usually very strong, coming every two and a half to three minutes or so and lasting a minute or more, and you may start shaking and shivering. By the time your cervix is fully dilated and transition is over, your baby has usually descended into your pelvis. This is when you might begin to feel pressure, as if you have to move your bowels. Some women begin to bear down spontaneously – to "push" – and may even start making deep grunting sounds.
Many women panic and there is a huge surge of adrenaline which can result in what Michel Odent refers to as the Foetal Eject Reflex where the sudden rush of adrenaline causes the uterus to contract strongly bringing baby out.
Pre-labour and 1st stage of labour require reassurance plus plus from dads/birth partners - plenty of you’re amazing, I love you, I’m so proud etc
2nd Stage of Labour:
If a mother doesn’t experience the spontaneous birth of her baby after transition then she will more than likely feel a huge urge to push. At this point of full dilation there can be a latent stag where everything stops allowing mum to rest and even sleep periodically before the pushing stage. The parts of the 2nd stage are:
A need to push
Baby travels down the birth canal
Head crowns with the tissues around the vagina and perineum stretching accompanied by an intense burning sensation
Baby’s head is born
Baby’s shoulders and rest of body are born
Phew! Super woman!
Mobility during the 1st and 2nd stage of Labour:
Be upright - during labour use gravity to promote downward spiralling of baby. Upright postures can speed up labour and prevent foetal distress, tearing, assisted delivery. Stand, kneel, squat, all fours.
Be mobile - move around, wiggle baby down the birth canal
Be relaxed - breathe, focus, visualise, use affirmations, let go, don’t be afraid to make noise and get primal
3rd Stage of Labour:
This results in the expulsion of the placenta. Under the influence of oxytocin the uterine muscles will continue to contract to expel the placenta and membranes and return the uterus to its on-pregnant state. The umbilical cord will stop pulsating if it hasn’t already been cut (you can ask that they leave the cord until it stops pulsating giving baby that last final flow of nutrients, its like a mini blood transfusion for baby). The 3rd stage has always been recognised as the most dangerous stage for mother to have a bleed and hence many hospital administer pitocin to expel the placenta spontaneously.
4th Stage of Labour:
Mum and baby time as the bonding process begins and oxytocin the hormone of love flows aiding milk flow. Any tissue repairs also take place during this stage. Skin to skin bonding with both mum and dad is magical and a moment neither of you will ever forget.