Relax, breathe and don't panic: what you need to know about the stages of labor for everything to go smoothly

 Soon to give birth, and you still do not know how everything goes? Rather, study our guide.

There are three main stages of childbirth . These include:

  1. contractions to fully dilate the cervix;
  2. expulsion of the fetus in the process of pushing;
  3.  exit of the placenta.

We will describe in detail the stages of labor in terms of time and intensity below.

First period

Training contractions

Childbirth by stage and time is divided into three periods. The first childbirth in a woman begins with the stage of  training contractions. At some point, they can smoothly turn into real generic ones - their duration and an increase in intensity will tell about this. During regular uterine contractions, the cervix gradually opens to release the baby into the light.

Contractions always come with certain rest breaks, only at the very beginning they are usually short, and the rest is long, and then they get longer, and the rest is shorter.

You will feel that the stomach becomes very hard, it is very tense. The contraction lasts a few seconds, after which the uterus relaxes. The first weak contractions, which last six to eight hours (about 30 seconds each, with an interval of 20-30 minutes), are sometimes not noticed by mothers at all among their usual activities.

If you felt the first sensations at night, do not rush to get ready for the hospital: try to relax, calm down and sleep. Most likely, there is still a lot of time before the baby appears, and when the contractions become more active, you will not be able to rest, but you will still need strength.

Discharge of amniotic fluid

Usually the waters are poured out in a rather large volume (200-400 ml), so it is impossible not to notice them; but sometimes they can only leak a little - in this case, it should be alerted that the underwear is soaked in moisture all the time. Normally, the waters will be clear or whitish.

But options are also possible:

  • yellow waters can indicate Rh-conflict between mother and fetus;
  • green waters are if meconium (original feces) got into them, which may indicate a post-term pregnancy or oxygen starvation of the crumbs;
  • the pink shade of the waters requires you to immediately go to the clinic: most likely, this is an admixture of blood due to the beginning of the separation of the placenta, and then emergency medical help is needed.

The discharge of waters is a more hectic beginning of childbirth, primarily because when they are poured out, even if the color does not inspire fear and there are not even contractions yet, you still need to start going to the hospital. The fact is that a long waterless period (more than 12 hours) can threaten the baby's health: the water no longer protects the baby from the pressure difference outside and inside the uterus, so the part of its body located at the exit - and usually this is the head - will experience an increased rush of blood.

Contractions and dilatation of the cervix

Whether the waters have moved away or not, the period of contractions during natural childbirth will still be passed. After all, before the body starts pushing, it is necessary for the cervix to open by 10-12 cm. This usually happens slowly, especially during the first birth; opening will go faster if you walk. But even if you are tired and you are not up to it, it is still better not to lie on your back to rest: the uterus will press on the vena cava, and the baby will not have enough oxygen.

The stages of contractions before childbirth are also divided into several periods. The wider the cervix opens, the more painful the sensations become. To make the pain less, try to relax as much as possible, find the most comfortable position, breathe slowly and deeply so that the exhalation is longer than the inhalation.

If you are guided by contractions to go to the hospital, then it is better to go when they occur with a frequency of once every seven to eight minutes or a little more often (the opening of the cervix is ​​three to four cm). The least painful way to get to the hospital is to stand on all fours in the back seat of the car.

If at the time of admission to the hospital the contractions are already intense, then it is better if someone close to you will answer the questions of the medical staff, it will be difficult for you to do this.

In the old days, the stages of childbirth (including primiparous ones) presupposed a complete refusal to eat and drink: it was believed that if anesthesia was needed during childbirth, then breathing complications could occur with a full stomach. Recent studies have shown that there is no such danger, and where doctors' knowledge is more recent, refusal to eat and drink is no longer required.

This is good, because childbirth is a great stress and a serious burden for the body. Therefore, you will most likely want to eat or drink. So it would be nice to add a bottle of special sports water to the bag that you collect at the hospital , which, thanks to solutions of vitamins and microelements, will give a burst of energy, and some kind of light snack.

The most painful of all stages of labor is when the cervix opens from four to eight to ten centimeters. Contractions in this phase can last up to a minute, repeating every two to four minutes for three to five hours. At this time, it is important to conserve strength and continue to relax the muscles as much as possible during breaks. When the uterus opens up to 10-12 centimeters, at first the contractions themselves will become a little easier, and then the body will move on to attempts.

Second period


Attempts help the baby to be born when the cervix is ​​already completely open.

Often there is a pause between the actual contractions and attempts, when the muscles relax and rest before starting the most active work to push the baby out. At this moment, you may feel exhaustion and even panic, but this calm will tell you that the exciting moment of the meeting will come very soon!

Attempts occur when the baby begins to pass through the opened cervix. They are felt in a different way: if the contractions were directed rather inward, then the attempts will be directed outward - these are strong contractions of the abdominal muscles, which most of all resemble an irrepressible desire to empty the intestines. They occur involuntarily, but they can be controlled.

From the moment the attempts begin, labor pain becomes much less than it was before. The time of attempts can be different: someone gives birth to a baby literally in two or three attempts, while for someone they can last up to two hours. If you approached this period with at least a small reserve of strength, then you will cope faster - and therefore it is very important to try to rest as much as possible.

During one push, you can push several times - if you try to push hard without interruption, then you will lose strength, and the baby may suffer from a lack of oxygen. This looks like this: with the onset of the attempt, you will take in air, exhale, and immediately after it, take a deep breath. Holding your breath, you will begin to push with all your might as long as there is enough air. When the air is no longer enough, exhale slowly, rest a little and repeat the cycle. Most often, during one contraction, it is possible to push three times.

It is important to try to push only in the direction of the perineum, to the point where the maximum pain is felt. Many women in labor strain with their whole body, and in particular with their head, but at the same time, just those efforts are lost that should help the quick appearance of the baby, and blood vessels burst in the eyes and on the face.

You can practice in advance: sit on the floor with support under your back, press your chin to your chest, grasp your knees with your hands. Exhale, take a deep breath and try to push with your mouth open - this helps to direct efforts exactly where you need to.

If the baby walks too fast, it can also be dangerous and lead to rupture of the perineum. In this case, the midwife, noticing the very active progress of the baby, will tell you about the need to restrain attempts. To do this, during the next attempt, it will be necessary not to try to push the child out, but to relax as much as possible and switch to rapid breathing with an open mouth, like a dog.

After the birth of the head in attempts, there is usually a short break, at which time the midwife can turn the baby so that the shoulders and the whole body come out more easily. And almost always at the next push, the baby is born entirely. In a minute, the baby will be placed on your stomach, and you will understand that this happiness will atone for all the suffering you have endured.

Third period

Placenta delivery

After the baby is born, there will be a break for 10-15 minutes, during which the placenta will finally separate, and you will have a desire to push again. These attempts will already be much weaker and almost without pain, it remains only to strain a little so that the afterbirth (placenta and membranes) leaves the body. 

According to international standards, labor is considered to be successfully completed when the baby switches from placental feeding to breastfeeding. Best of all, if the baby lies naked on your naked skin, only covered with a diaper on top - such a skin-to-skin contact helps the baby to maintain a stable temperature, breathing and heartbeat, begins to form a natural family microflora and gives a feeling of peace and happiness to the baby and mother...

Do not be afraid that the baby will freeze: the body of a woman who has just given birth is naturally tuned to maintain the temperature of the baby's body. According to modern data, an incubator with the best equipment still does not stabilize babies as well as a mother's hug.

In order for the uterus to contract well after childbirth, and the body to reconfigure from pregnancy and childbirth to breastfeeding, it is better that the child does not part with you for the first two hours after childbirth, remaining on mother's breast. Colostrum, which he receives during this time, will provide the baby with all the necessary vitamins, nutrients and protective antibodies. And the difficult path of childbirth that you went through together will end with a happy ending.