Giving birth is both scary and exciting for a woman. The labor pains, the waiting, and the tiredness makes it a feat. Women feel like they wait forever for the labor pains to begin and when they do begin, a minute feels like an eternity. The labor process can be split into various stages, four to be precise. Understanding these four stages of labor helps you know what is happening to your body and what will happen next.
The Four Stages Of Labor
Stage One- Zero To Intense
The first stage of labor can further be split into three parts.
The first part of stage one of labor is called as early labor. During this time, your cervix is dilating and preparing for labor. You many not feel any strong contractions, just some pains that seem like period cramps. The contractions are prominent in the lower back and lower abdomen region and last for 30 to 60 seconds. The frequency of the contractions is anywhere between 5 to 20 minutes. The duration of these contractions varies with each woman.
The second part of stage one labor is called the active labor. In this time, your cervix dilates from 1.6 to 3 inches (about 4 to 8 centimeters). This stage lasts for about 3 to 8 hours and the contractions are stronger. The pain is mostly felt from the lower back to the front or vice versa. During active labor, the contractions are much frequent and come like waves. Take a warm shower, walk and change positions to deal with these contraction pains.
The last part of stage one labor is the transition. Your cervix further dilates from 3 to 4 inches (8 to 10 cm). The contractions occur much often and other changes may also occur in your body. You may become nauseous, get hot or cold sweats and even experience shivers. Though this is the shortest part of the first stage of labor, it is definitely the hardest. It can last anywhere between 15 minutes to 3 hours. Make sure you don’t begin pushing until your doctor says so.
Stage Two- Push It Out
The second stage of labor is when your baby will be born. Your doctor or midwife encourage you to push. You will be asked to push and relax at the same time. Yes, it is possible. The trick is to use your stomach muscles to push your baby down but keep your pelvic muscles relaxed. Listen to your doctor/midwife and follow their instructions. If they ask you to stop, stop. Pushing too hard when you’re not supposed to can lead to tearing or hemorrhoids.
You will see how your baby’s head will come out first and when your baby’s head crowns, you will feel a burning sensation. This is called the ring of fire. The pain will fade after the initial burning since your body has natural pain killers. Once the head is delivered, you may have to push some more gently to deliver the rest of your baby. Once the baby is delivered, you will be given matching bracelets for your family and then the umbilical cord can be cut.
Stage Three- The Placenta
The third stage of labor is the delivery of the placenta. Your uterus will contract until the placenta is delivered. Your doctor or midwife will rub your abdomen to aid in the dislodging of your placenta. Don’t let the blood scare of alarm you. This stage can be uncomfortable to mildly painful. Once the placenta is delivered, your doctor will check if it is healthy and intact. Once this is done, you will feel an excruciating pain in your vagina when you touch or even without touching.
Stage Four- Recovery
Your delivery and labor are finally over. However, your uterus has some more work to do for a while. You experience contractions to bring your uterus back to its original size. While these contractions are not painful in your first pregnancy, your second or third childbirths are more painful for some reason.
The fourth stage of labor includes the recovery time after delivery. Hospitals usually keep you for two days after a vaginal delivery and four days after a c-section. During this time, your body will be sore and tender. You should not move very much. The nurses and doctors will check on you regularly to make sure there is no complication. Also, your bleeding decreases gradually and the blood clots too will diminish. The doctor will check your blood pressure and swelling. Keep yourself hydrated during this time. Staying hydrated also helps in checking for bowel movements.
The fourth stage of labor is the beginning of life with your baby in a way. This is the time you start bonding with your baby. The fourth stage if labor is also a great time to get some advice on breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is an art that requires much practice to be skilled at. Discuss with your doctor on how to breastfeed and the positions, nighttime feedings and other related queries.