Stages of Labour

Stages of Labour

Labour has three stages:

  • The first stage is when the neck of the womb (cervix ) opens to 10cm dilated.
  • The second stage is when the baby moves down through the vagina and is born.
  • The third stage is when the placenta (afterbirth) is delivered.

First Stage - During this time you might experience:

  • Contractions – some can be quite mild, like a period pain; others can be sharp and painful. Initially the contractions will be short (between 30 to 40seconds long) and irregular. Once contractions are five minutes apart and a minute or more in length, labour is said to be ‘established’.
  • A ‘show’ – the discharge of a plug of mucus that can be thick and stringy or blood-tinged. This may happen the day you go into labour, or up to a week before.
  • ‘Breaking of your waters’, which means the amniotic sac around your baby has ruptured.

Coping with the first stage of labour

Every labour is different, if you think you could be in labour, the first thing to do is relax and stay calm. The best place for early labour is at home.

Things to do and try at home:

  • Once contractions become fairly regular, write down the time between each contraction, as well as how long each contraction lasts
  • Distraction – watch television or a DVD, play a board game, do crosswords
  • Relaxation and visualisation – breathe in gently, sigh out slowly, think positive thoughts
  • Stay mobile – go for short walks
  • Massage – neck and shoulder to release tension
  • A warm bath or shower
  • Panadol, warm drinks, water
  • Small frequent meals, such as fruit, nuts, carbohydrates (bread, pasta, rice, cereal), plus small amounts of sugary foods
  • Sleep – try to rest and sleep in between contractions
  • Heat – a hot water bottle or a heat pack can be helpful on your back
  • TENs machine – these can be hired
  • Support people – have positive supportive people around you

When to ring the Labour and Birthing Suite – 091 544225

If you have been advised to ring the Labour and Birthing Suite early, due to a complication with your pregnancy, please do. Tell us about the complication at the beginning of the call.

Otherwise, call us when you notice one of these events:

  • Your contractions are coming every five minutes, lasting longer than 40 seconds and have been getting stronger for at least two hours.
  • Your membranes rupture(waters released) and it is clear , Put on a sanitary pad and come to the hospital.
  • Your baby’s pattern of movements change
  • You notice any vaginal bleeding – bright red vaginal bleeding is not normal.

Things to do and try at hospital:

  • Find positions that feel comfortable. Walk the corridors slowly, lean on the walls, use the birthing ball. Try to stay off the bed, unless for a short rest.
  • Water is great for relaxation and coping with contractions. Try the bath and the shower.
  • Bring music if you find it relaxes you.
  • Continue to take refreshments and drink small amounts frequently.

The second stage of labour

The 2nd stage of labour begins when the cervix is fully dilated (open) and ends with the birth of the baby. The birth of your baby may take 30 minutes or up to an hour or more.

A small number of women will require assistance with their births, either by forceps or ventouse (vacuum extraction). The obstetrician will choose which is best for your situation.

The third stage of labour

The final stage of labour is delivery of the placenta. There are two ways this can happen. 

Physiological management
Physiological third stage means waiting for your placenta to deliver spontaneously with your effort. This may take up to an hour following the birth; while you’re waiting, skin-to-skin with your baby and a first breastfeed will be encouraged.

Active management
Active management involves injecting an oxytocic  drug  into your leg with your consent  as your baby’s shoulders are born. This speeds up placental separation and your uterus (womb) contracts down to reduce blood loss and ensure your womb remains contracted.

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