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Stages Of Labour


Stages Of Labour

Labour is described as a series of “stages”...


It is important to remember that the process and timings below are the “textbook” description and each woman’s experience of labour may be different. The length of a first labour is approximately 12-16 hours. The first stage on average lasts about 10-14 hours, the second stage 1-2 hours and the third stage 10-30 minutes. As mentioned every labour is different and some women never have a pattern to their contractions or follow a timing – it is very important to listen to your body.

Stage One
During the first stage the cervix thins (effaces), and opens (dilates) from 0 to 10cm.

Latent or early phase

  • The cervix opens from 0 -4 cm.
  • Contractions are mild and might be 5 – 30 minutes apart with no real pattern to them.
  • This phase can take a long time with some women experiencing niggly cramps over several days. 

Active phase

  • The cervix opens from 4 to 8 cm.
  • Contractions are stronger and might be 2 -3 minutes apart, lasting 60 seconds.
  • Many LMCs advise the time to leave for your place of birth is when you're experiencing three contractions in ten minutes with each one lasting one minute.
  • Most women will need to stop and concentrate during the contractions in this stage - remember those long out breaths, and soften your pelvis.

Transition phase

  • The cervix opens from 8 – 10 cm.
  • Contractions are very strong and can be 1½ – 3 minutes apart lasting 90 seconds
  • This is the most intense part of labour
  • Lasts up to an hour

Stage Two
The second stage starts with pushing and ends with the birth of the baby

Pushing, crowning

  • You will most likely feel the urge to push
  • There is a feeling of intense pressure
  • The baby is pushed down the birth passage
  • The pelvic floor and vagina are stretched as the baby's head moves down
  • As the vaginal opening stretches around the baby's head (crowning) you'll feel a burning or stnging sensation. This is the 'burning ring of fire'! Change your breathing to a pant here, and allow your perineal tissues to stretch before you push again.
  • The baby’s head is born followed by the first shoulder and then the rest of the body. You will pick your baby up, or baby is placed skin to skin on  your chest.

Stage Three

  • Birth of the placenta
  • Contractions are irregular and very mild. You may not even notice them - after all you have a perfect, beautiful baby to fall in love with and admire.
  • If left to occur naturally the placenta should be delivered within 30 minutes, or an injection called an ecbolic may be given to speed up the birth of the placenta.
  • It's important things are kept calm and quiet at this time to allow your hormones to be at their most effective.
  • If the placenta does not come out, or is incomplete,  a manual removal (in theatre) will be required.

Stage Four

  • Bonding & Attachment
  • You and baby will have skin to skin contact, baby has its first breastfeed, then the family are left alone to get to know their new baby. When you are ready you can shower and freshen up.



Birth Plan | Being A Birth Goddess | Home Birth Essentials | Hormones In Labour
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Tips From A New Dad | What To Pack For Hospital



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