Stages of labour
Labour pains

What to expect in your labour

After months of nurturing the little bun in your oven, the day you'll give birth is almost here! Your labour is right around the corner, so what should you expect when labour hits? Read on for some of the details.

If you ask a room full of mothers what labour is like, you're likely to get a room full of different answers! That's because the experience is personal and varies from woman to woman. There are similarities as well as differences, but there is one thing all moms will agree upon: In the end, the pain was well worth it! Here is a brief synopsis of labour symptoms and the process you'll experience.

Symptoms

It's not always easy to know for sure that labour is imminent or that you might already be in the early stage, but here are a few signs:

  • Your water breaks. It's not always as obvious as it sounds; it could be a small leak or a gush, but it generally means labour is close at hand.
  • You feel contractions. Yes, this sounds like common knowledge, but if you are like the majority of women, you have probably experienced Braxton Hicks contractions during your pregnancy. So what's the difference? Think of your Braxton Hicks as a warm-up and your labour contractions as the big game. Braxton Hicks will be mild and sporadic, while labour contractions will be stronger, come at regular intervals and increase as they progress.
  • You have back pain. Let's face it: You've probably had a sore back for months, but if it changes to excruciating pain, you may be having "back labour."
  • You lose the mucus plug/bloody show. You may notice the mucus that has sealed off your cervix has been discharged from your vagina. It may be tinged with blood and is referred to a "bloody show." Full labour could still be days away, but it's a sign the cervix is changing.

The stages of labour

There are three stages of labour.The first phase is the longest and consists of the early stage, the active labour stage and the transitional stage. This is followed by the second and third stages.

The first stage

  • The early stage. As it progresses, the cervix will dilate up to about 4 centimetres, and while every labour is unique, you will likely have contractions that are about half a minute long and occur regularly.
  • Active labour stage. Your labour will continue to progress, and your cervix will dilate to 10 centimetres. Your contractions will progressively become more intense and longer. They will build to about a minute to a minute and a half in duration.They will occur more often, in some cases every three to four minutes or so.
  • The transitional phase. This refers to the transition from the first stage to the second, "pushing" stage of labour.

The second stage

  • This is the "pushing" phase of labour. You will feel the strong urge to push with every contraction, and with every push, your baby will move farther down the birth canal. Your physician or midwife can help guide you through the process, but at the end, you will have given birth to your baby!

The third stage

  • This is the last phase of labour. You may notice weak contractions that will help loosen and remove the placenta, although your hospital may help speed up this process with an injection.

More on Pregnancy

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What does "natural birth" mean
What you'll need for a hospital delivery

Tags: labor and delivery

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