The Latent Phase
It may take some time for your body to be ready to establish labour. This time period will vary from person to person.
This stage may present with back pain, or irregular contractions. These can often stop and start.
As well as the contractions you may also noticed a bloody mucus in your underwear or upon wiping after going to the toilet, this will be your show which is normal.
Subtle and important changes are beginning to happen, and your contractions have started, which will make your cervix gradually shorten, thin and start to open up (dilate). Usually, this is the longest stage (more so if this is your first baby) and can last longer than 3 days.
The First Stage of Labour
The first stage of labour is the time from the beginning of labour till you are ready to start pushing.
Labour has started when your cervix has dilated to more than 3cm and you have regular contractions.
When you labour starts try to stay comfortable and relaxed.
Breathing exercises, massage and having a warm bath or shower may help to ease pain during this early stage of labour.
The Second Stage of Labour
This is when you are ready to start pushing.
When your cervix is fully dilated, your baby will move further down the birth canal towards the entrance to your vagina. You may get an urge to push that feels a bit like you need to have a poo.
You can push during contractions whenever you feel the urge.
If you have an epidural, you may not get an urge to push at all, but the midwife will instruct you how and when to push.
If you are having your first baby, this pushing stage should last no longer than two hours. If you have had a baby before, it tends to take less time.
This stage of labour is hard work, but your midwife will help and encourage you. Your birth partner can also support you.
The Third Stage of Labour
There are two ways to manage this stage of labour:
- active - when you have treatment to speed things up
- physiological - when you have no treatment and this stage happens naturally
Your midwife will explain both to you while you are still pregnant or during early labour, so you can decide which you would prefer.
Your midwife will advise which type of management is recommended. There are situations where active management is the safest option. Your midwife or doctor can explain if this is the case for you.