Stages of Labor

There are many stages of labor. It might be that you've only heard of three; well I'm about to give you the low-down on all the phases and stages of childbirth.

Here is a brief description of the different stages of labor.

First Stage:

First stage of labor begins at the onset of labor and ends when the cervix is 100 percent effaced and completely dilated. Remember that ‘completely dilated’ might be less than 10cms…...fully dilated is when the cervix is open enough for your baby’s head to pass through it. If you’re preterm when labor starts the baby may be smaller than a full-term baby.


This isn’t strictly a ‘stage’, but it’s the period that comes towards the end of 1st stage and beginning of 2nd stage. A most memorable time in any labor! This is when you might find yourself telling your partner and your Midwife that you’ve changed your mind about the whole idea of having a baby and if you aren’t at home will ask to go home!

For Midwives the start of transition is always a happy sign, especially after a long first stage. It means that your cervix is completely open and baby is ready to make his or her way down the birth canal.

Some signs that midwives look for in women during transition:

• becoming restless

• not knowing whether you want to push, get in the birth pool or walk around

• becoming annoyed with your partner’s attempts to sooth you.

• asking for all the drugs and medications that you swore you’d never take under any circumstance!

• feeling shaky, cold and clammy

• feeling nauseous and wanting to vomit

• having the 'burps' or hiccups out of no-where

Second Stage:

Also known as the ‘pushing stage’. It begins when your cervix is completely dilated (open) and ends with the birth of your gorgeous baby. Many people think that the birth is the end of labor! Not so - there are two more stages of labor to go.

Third Stage:

Starts after the birth of your baby and ends when the placenta and membranes are delivered. Your midwife or ob/gyn will examine the umbilical cord, placenta and membranes to make sure that they are complete. If your membranes are “ragged” or torn in many places then you can sometimes have a small piece of membrane left inside. This usually results in some strong after-pains (contractions) that will expel the piece of membrane. A careful eye will be kept on you to check that all membranes are expelled over the next few days. It’s important that you show your midwife anything unusual that comes out with your vaginal discharge. It is checked to see if it’s membrane or bits of placenta.

Fourth Stage:

This stage of labor is the hour or two immediately following the birth of your baby (& placenta). The uterus will be contracting and constricting the blood vessels that have supplied the placenta.

These contractions, or 'after-pains' as they are known will be aided by breastfeeding. As you breast-feed your baby you are stimulating the production of the hormone Oxytocin which helps with contracting your uterus back to it's pre-pregnant size. This can take days to weeks depending on several factors.

Your blood pressure, temperature and heart rate will be checked by your Midwife or doctor and will gradually come back to normal levels. Your contractions or after-pains will slow down and become less noticeable. Your womb (uterus) will gradually become firmer and more contracted. Although, as mentioned earlier, it will usually take a few weeks to get back to pre-pregnant size. Your midwife or doctor will check your vaginal blood loss. If you need a few stitches this is when they will be done.

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