EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE 3 STAGES OF LABOR
Right now if you are pregnant, I know that there is a whirlwind of information floating around your mind. Things to remember and things to get done before baby arrives.
Not only this but there is so much stuff that you have to learn as well. One thing you will definitely need to know about are the different stages of labor.
Learning about the 3 different stages of labor will help you to really gain control of your childbirth experience and put things into perspective.
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WHAT ARE THE NAMES OF THE 3 STAGES OF LABOR?
The first stage of labor is called “Early Labor”.
Early labor is where things begin but you might not necessarily feel anything straight away. Your cervix may start to open up but you won’t necessarily feel it.
The second stage of labor is “Active labor”. This is where things really start to pick up.
This is the part of labor that most people are familiar with. You will probably get a sense of discomfort at this stage of labor as your cervix starts to open up even more.
The third stage of labor is called “Transitional Labor”.
Transitional labor is the last stage before you get to meet your new baby and the most intense. This stage of labor is the part that a lot of women fear.
EARLY LABOR – THE FIRST STAGE OF LABOR
Defining exactly when early labor starts can be difficult to be exact about because you are likely to have a much different experience to the person sitting next to you.
If this is your first child then the first stage of labor can take a while.
In my first pregnancy, I remember reading up lots about what to expect when labor started.
I thought I was totally prepared and would know exactly the moment I went into labor, but I was wrong.
In the middle of the night I started feeling some pain in my back and thought to myself, this is it!
I woke my husband up and told him to take me to the hospital straight away.
When I got there, the midwife took one look at me and declared that she doubted very much that I was in labor but that she would check me out anyway.
Low and behold I was not even 3 cm yet. I couldn’t believe it!
She told me that if I’m experiencing pain that I felt was too much to handle at this stage then I should take some painkillers and go to bed because I still had a way to go.
I thought she was joking.
She was not.
I went home and told myself to get a grip because by the sound of things I had a bit of a wait.
You see in all my research I had failed to look into the different stages of labor. I thought that labor was labor and baby was around the corner.
Early labor can actually last anywhere from hours to days. Some women are actually unaware when they go into labor because they just don’t feel much different to how they usually feel.
I know of some women who didn’t even know that they were in labor until their midwife came for a routine checkup.
The thing that some people fail to understand about early labor is that once it starts you can still continue to go about your day almost normally.
Yes there will be some discomfort and it works on a case by case basis but on the whole, life can still continue. This is even truer if you are going to be in the early stage of labor for a few days.
At this point, it really is a mind over matter thing.
You see the way that the midwife spoke to me so firmly at the hospital made me realize that I was being more emotional than I was in actual pain.
I wanted to meet my baby, I was overdue and tried all at the same time but it wasn’t time just yet.
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WHAT TO DO IN THE EARLY STAGES OF LABOR
The best thing you can do once you are in the early stages of labor is to calm yourself down and take it one step at a time.
Look into some natural ways to induce labor to help speed things up.
I know that sounds pretty basic but it will do you the world of good.
Spend the time distracting yourself instead of getting frustrated.
Sleep if you can because once that baby comes along sleep will become a distant memory. You will need as much rest as possible in preparation for the second stage of labor.
Try to remain active if you can’t sleep. The more active that you are, the more likely it will be to get the baby moving.
Don’t think of this waiting time as a negative but rather as a positive thing. Use the time to get excited and get those last few things done before you leave for the hospital.
I went shopping in my early stages of labor. I guess it was funny to watch from the outside looking in but shopping that day was just what I needed.
I needed to get out of the house and get some perspective on my situation.
ACTIVE LABOR – THE SECOND STAGE OF LABOR
Active labor is much more intense than early labor.
You will likely see the difference in the level of pain that you feel.
Active labor usually begins once you start to dilate anywhere from 4cm to about 8cm.
Your contractions will last longer and become closer together.
During active labor you will notice that the more dilated your cervix becomes the stronger the contractions will be.
This is why timing contractions is really important. When you time your contractions it will give your doctor or midwife a better idea of how far along you are before you get to the hospital.
Once you reach about 6cm dilated you can begin to head to the hospital.
Typically at this stage, your contractions will probably be about 5 minutes apart lasting for about 30-60 seconds.
Labor at this stage can vary from woman to woman. Some people pass through this stage very quickly and for others it takes hours.
There’s not a whole lot you can do to make things go any more quickly at this point except for keeping as upright as possible and staying active if you can.
WHAT TO DO IN THE ACTIVE STAGE OF LABOR
When active labor begins, it’s very important to make sure that your mind is focused on the task at hand.
This is not the time to be thinking about if the cat has had its food or if your mother in law will be coming to the hospital.
This is the perfect time for your partner or doula to take a step in and give you full support. They will be your voice as you labor.
if you have a birth plan at the ready, this is the time to use it.
There is no other perfect time to be selfish than right now.
Focus on yourself and make yourself as comfortable as possible.
TRANSITIONAL LABOR – THE THIRD STAGE OF LABOR
Transitional labor is where you really need to work (It’s not called labor for nothing).
It is at this point that all that energy that you have been saving up can be used.
Transitional labor is where you may feel that you can’t take any more.
Your body will be headed to being almost being fully dilated (10cm) and your baby will be much further down the birth canal.
You may even be experiencing the pressure of your baby’s head on your cervix.
If your water has not broken yet it is likely to do so at any moment. Even if it doesn’t break on its own your doctor or midwife will likely break it for you if it doesn’t happen by itself.
This stage of labor is the hardest but the most rewarding as you will soon be meeting your baby.
Transitional labor can last anything up to 2 hours, although for some women who are unlucky enough it can be longer.
Most doctors only recommend that you push for a maximum of 2 hours before they have to intervene.
Pushing for too long can cause you to become extremely exhausted and could be a sign that labor is not progressing as it should
This is dangerous to both you and your baby so if your doctor wants to intervene don’t feel disappointed in yourself.
If this does happen then your doctor may suggest a cesarean section birth.
WHAT TO DO IN THE TRANSITIONAL STAGE OF BIRTH
Try to concentrate on your baby rather than any pain that you might be in.
Take each contraction one at a time and don’t psyche yourself out.
At this stage, you don’t have long to go before you meet your baby.
Remember that at this stage of labor just when you feel you can’t do anymore and that you might actually die is when your baby will usually make an appearance. It’s always perfect timing.
THINGS TO REMEMBER
If this is your first pregnancy then labor is likely to take a bit longer. Your second labor will probably be much quicker.
Remember that many women have given birth before you and have even gone back and done it a second and even a third time so it can’t be all that bad.
Once your baby comes out you won’t remember the pain in the same way you did when it was actually happening.
It’s an amazing thing!
You can do this.
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