It is common for many pregnant women, particularly so for first-time mothers, to wonder and get anxious about labor and delivery of the child. Just as pregnancy is different for every woman, the start of labor and the length of time it takes to go through labor vary from woman to woman. However, a little more knowledge about the stages of the birth process will be a lot of reassuring.
Most often, labor begins sometime between 37th week and 42nd week of pregnancy. If labor that begins before 37th week of pregnancy, it is considered premature labor.
There are three stages of labor and delivery. Here is what to expect during each stage of your upcoming labor:
First Stage Or Stage-1
The first stage of labor is the longest and is divided into two phases: early labor and active labor.
The following happens during early labor:
- Cervix (the opening of the uterus) starts to thin and open wider or stretch.
- Contractions become stronger and last 30 to 60 seconds. They come every 5 to 20 minutes.
- Your woman may have a clear, pink, or slightly bloody discharge. This is called the “show.”
You may experience this phase for up to 20 hours if you are giving birth for the first time.
The following happens during active labor:
- Contractions will be painful, as they become stronger and longer.
- Contractions come at shorter intervals, leaving little time to relax between each contraction.
- You may start to feel pressure in your lower back.
- The cervix begins to dilate (open) faster.
- The fetus begins to move into the birth canal.
Second Stage Or Stage-2
The second stage can last between 20 minutes and several hours. It usually lasts longer for first-time mothers. It also lasts longer if you receive certain pain medications. In this stage, the cervix is fully open (10 cm). You begin to push to help the baby move through the birth canal.
The following happens during the second stage:
- You may feel pressure in the rectum as your baby’s head moves through the vagina.
- You may feel the urge to push, as you do while having a bowel movement.
- The baby’s head begins to show up in the vaginal opening. This is called crowning.
- Your doctor or OB/GYN guides the baby out of the vagina.
- Immediately after your baby comes out, the doctor or OB/GYN cuts the umbilical cord. This connected you and the fetus during pregnancy.
Third Stage Or Stage-3
In the third stage, the placenta is delivered. The placenta is the organ that supplied nutrition and oxygen to your baby during the pregnancy. The placenta separates from the wall of the uterus and comes out of the birth canal. Usually, the placenta comes out on its own, but sometimes, its delivery may require a doctor’s assistance.
The following happens during the third stage:
- Contractions start 5 to 10 minutes after the baby is delivered.
- You may experience chills or feel shaky.
Usually, it takes about 30 minutes for the placenta to come out of the vagina. Your doctor or OB/GYN may ask you to push. The doctor or OB/GYN may gently pull the umbilical cord and massage the uterus to help the placenta come out.