The first stage starts with effacement, which
is the thinning of the cervix, the birth canal at the juncture of the
uterus and vagina. The baby’s head drops lower into the abdomen and this
can be felt by the mother. The dropping of the baby’s head may be felt
by an urge to push and increased pressure on the mother’s bowel. The
feeling is almost similar to that before passing motion. The cervix
starts to dilate in preparation for the baby’s birth. The mother is
discouraged from pushing since a minimum dilation of at least 10 cm is
required for the baby to be able to move down into the birth canal.
stage is usually characterised by contractions which become regular
with time. The mother is still able to walk around. In fact, walking
around at this time helps to ease the pain in women. The stage ends with
the ‘breaking of the water’ which is actually the rupture of the
amniotic sac. The baby is ready to be born when this happens. The first
stage may last for as long as 12-14 hours in the first pregnancy.
A woman in the second stage experiences more intense
contractions occurring at shorter intervals. Subsequent contractions may
occur at intervals of 3-4 minutes and each may last for about 40-60
seconds. The mother feels increased discomfort and leg pain and if her
water has not broken yet, it may have to be ruptured manually by the
When the baby’s head is appropriately low down into the
birth canal, the mother starts to push. The urge to push comes naturally
due to the presence of the baby very low in the uterus. The appearance
of the baby’s head in the vagina is called ‘crowning’. In most cases,
babies are born head first. The shoulders then slide out one by one and
the legs come out last.
Though most deliveries, even now, take
place in the supine position (woman on her back), more and more women
are opting for the squatting position, which makes delivery easier due
to the additional help of the gravitational pull.
the baby is born, the umbilical cord is clamped and cut. The third
stage is the expulsion of the placenta and the after birth. After the
baby is born, the placenta is expelled along with other remnants of
birth. In some case they may have to be pushed out actively by the
mother. In most cases, the after birth comes out on its own. The uterus
is contracting to expel the placenta and other remnants. Oxytocin
injection may be given to the mother to hasten the contraction of the
uterus and expel the placenta faster.
After the placenta is
delivered, there is menstruation like bleeding from the vagina. The
doctor may want to stitch up any lacerations or tears that may have
occurred during delivery. This stage lasts from a few minutes to about
half an hour.
What are the different stages of labor?
After the gruelling months of pregnancy, child birth is almost a fitting end to the saga. Labour is induced when the baby is ready to be born. Actual labour may be preceded by a series of false contractions that may feel like labour. Although text books usually describe labour as occurring in three distinct stages, each woman may experience it in a way different from others.
Beginning of labour – characterised by dilation of the cervix to allow the passage of the baby.
Labour – characterised by the actual pushing motion and the birth of the baby.
Afterbirth – delivery of the placenta and the after birth.