Saturday, 27 September 2008

The wonderful stages of Labour

Stage One

The first stage of labour is concerned with the thinning of the cervix and its dilation to around 10cm. It is split into three phases they include:

  1. The latent phase - generally, this stage is the longest and the least painful part of labour. Many woman don't realise it is even happening. The cervix can thin out over weeks, days or hours and be accompanied by mild contractions. The contractions may be regularly or irregularly spaced, or else you might not even notice them at all.
  2. The active phase - the next phase is marked by strong, painful contractions that tend to occur around three or four minutes apart and last up to a minute or so. The cervix dilates to around 7cm.
  3. The transition phase - the contractions become more intense, painful and frequent. It may feel like the contractions are no longer separate but running into each other. The cervix may take around an hour or so to dilate the final 3cm. This is the moment that many women dread where you have a strong urge to go to the toilet as the baby’s head pushes against the rectum, and you may have a bowel movement, remember that having a pooh during labour is normal and nothing to be concerned about, the nurses are ready for it and they see it every day.

Second Stage

Once the cervix is dilated to around 10cm, the second stage of labour can begin. The contractions should now be regular and spaced apart, so that you can relax between them (as best as you can). As each contraction builds to a peak, you may feel the urge to bear down and push. The sensation of the baby moving through the vagina is described as a stretching or burning, particularly as the baby’s head crowns (appears at the vaginal entrance). Once the head has emerged, the delivery staff will turn the body to deliver the shoulders. The rest of the baby will then slip out. This second stage typically lasts between 15 minutes to one hour.

Third stage

This stage is often forgotten and sometime shocks first time mums who think it is all over, in this stage the placenta is delivered, anywhere between 5 to 30 minutes after the birth. The uterus gently contracts to loosen and push out the placenta, although you may not be able to feel these contractions.

Fourth Stage

It maybe argued that there is a fourth stage that is often discounted as it does not apply to some women. The fourth stage is where you are checked for tears and they are repaired, some women say that the stitching was the worst part of the birth. With that in mind it is really important that you pay attention to your midwife and push at the right times, then your chances of tearing are reduced.