After months of waiting and anticipation, the due date for your baby’s arrival is finally near. There are things that you should know beforehand to make this experience relatively easier. Every labour and birth are different but generally, a labour is divided into three stages. Here we tell you about these stages and what to do in each of them.
The first stage of labour
The contractions make your cervix to dilate (open up) gradually in the first stage of labour. It is usually the longest stage too. This is called latent phase and in this phase, the cervix starts to soften so it can open up at the start of the labour. You may feel irregular contractions and it can be hours, or even days before you are in an established labour, which is when regular contractions are opening the cervix and it has dilated to more than 3 cm. Try to eat and drink to gain the energy during the latent phase which you will need once the labour is established. If the labour starts during the day, try to be gently active and keep upright. This will help your baby to move down into the pelvis and also the cervix to dilate. Breathing exercises, warm bath or shower, and massages can help in relaxing the pain in the early stage of labour.
The second stage of labour
The second stage starts from when the cervix is fully dilated until your baby is born. You will need to find a position to give birth in. Your midwife will help you to select a comfortable position. You may sit, stand, kneel, or lie on your side. If you suffer from a backache in the labour, kneeling on all fours can prove helpful. You may even try these positions before you go into labour to get a hold of them beforehand.
When your cervix is dilated fully, the baby moves further down the birth canal towards the entrance of the vagina. You may feel the urge to push during the contractions and you can do so. If you have an epidural, you may not have the urge to push at all. For the first baby, the pushing takes up to 3 hours and if you have had a baby before it will take no more than 2 hours. This stage involves hard work, but your midwife and birth partner can support and encourage you.
When the head of your baby is ready to come out, the midwife will ask you to stop pushing instead ask you to take short breaths through your mouth. This is done so the head can come out gently and slowly, giving time to muscles and skin to stretch. Once the baby’s head comes out, most of the hard work is done, and the rest of the body will follow in the next one or two contractions.
The third stage of labour
The third stage starts after the baby is born and when the womb contracts and the placenta comes out through the vagina. This stage is managed with two approaches – active and physiological. The active method involves treatment, like an oxytocin injection, to speed things up whereas in the physiological method no treatment is given and things take their course naturally. Both the methods can be explained to you by the doctor or the midwife and you can decide which one you prefer. However, there can be certain situations where a physiological method is not advisable. Your doctor will tell you so if it is the case with you. If the placenta does not come away naturally or you start bleeding heavily you will be advised to switch to active treatment. It can surely speed up the delivery of the placenta while lowering the risk of heavy bleeding but may cause you to feel nauseous and increase your chances of vomiting.