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The 3 stages of childbirth: what to expect and how to manage

[fa icon="calendar"] May 8, 2019 3:02:09 PM / by Jia Hui

Mothers’ Day is coming in a few days! To most, childbirth is perceived as a nerve-wracking experience, and it is this extraordinary experience our mothers went through which makes mothers so noble. Apart from the scene of blood, sweat, and tears, do you know there are three stages of childbirth? If you are a mother-to-be, read to find out what to expect and how to manage each stage of childbirth!

First stage: Labor

Childbirth begins with the first stage known as labor. Labor can be further divided into three phases, known as the early, active and transitional phases. Your body will undergo different changes in each phase, as follows:

Early phase

The early phase is the time when labor begins until the cervix is dilated to three centimeters and thins. Lasting approximately eight to 12 hours, you will experience mild contractions lasting 30 to 45 seconds, with five to 30 minutes of rest in-between. Contractions will become more intensive and frequent, and last longer over time. You may also experience backache, menstrual-like cramps, warm sensation in the abdomen and bloody discharge. Your amniotic sac ruptures during this phase.

Do not panic yet! Relax and conserve your energy for the later phases. In the day, you may go about your usual routine. At night, try to get some sleep, or do some light activities if you are unable to. Alert your partner and monitor your contractions. It’s also beneficial to eat light snacks and keep yourself hydrated.

During this moment, your partner may engage you in activities to distract yourself from the discomfort, and offer reassurance and support.

If your discharge is bright red or excessive (more than two tablespoons), amniotic fluid is greenish or notice no fetal activity, consult your doctor immediately.

Eat well during the early phase of labor, so that you have the energy for childbirth!

Active phase

The active phase is the time when the cervix continues to dilate to seven centimeters. Lasting approximately three to five hours, you will experience contractions lasting 45 to 60 seconds, with three to five minutes rest in-between. You should be admitted to the hospital, or have the midwife with you if you are giving birth at home. You will experience increasingly painful contractions, increasing backache, increasing bloody discharge, and leg heaviness. To alleviate your discomfort, you can start your relaxation exercises and breathing techniques. It is also advisable for you to switch positions frequently. This is the phase when you receive epidural if requested.

During this moment, your partner may continue to monitor your contractions, engage in activities and give support. Massaging your abdomen and lower back, propping pillows and supplying warm water helps too!

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Transition phase

Now comes the most challenging phase! The transition phase is the time when the cervix continues to dilate to 10 centimeters. Lasting about 30 minutes to two hours, you will experience contractions lasting 60 to 90 seconds, with 30 seconds to two minutes rest in-between. Contractions are long, intense and may overlap. If you didn’t receive an epidural, you will experience rectal pressure, pressure in the lower back, drowsiness between contractions, nausea and trembling.

While you continue with your breathing techniques, it is important for your partner to offer praise and encourage you to relax between contractions. Feeling overwhelmed and impatient is normal for you in this phase, so your partner shouldn’t be taken aback.

Painful contractions, backache, and leg heaviness are expected in labor, making relaxation techniques crucial.

Second stage: Delivery of the baby

Once the cervix is dilated to 10 centimeters, the baby is ready to be delivered! Lasting from 20 minutes to two hours, you will experience contractions lasting 45 to 90 seconds, with three to five minutes rest in-between. Now is the time to push! If you did not receive the epidural, you will feel an overwhelming urge to push. Due to pressure at your rectum, you may pass out bowels or urination. As your baby’s head emerges, you will have a slippery feeling and a burning sensation.

As you are pushing, have your partner guide you through and provide physical support in your position.

Third stage: Delivery of the placenta

Good job for delivering your child! Now, you’re left with delivering your placenta and you’re done! Lasting for five to 30 minutes, you will experience minor contractions signaling that your placenta is ready to be delivered. Your doctor may apply pressure to the uterus and pull the umbilical cord to help in delivery.

After the placenta is delivered, you will experience shivering and bloody discharge, which is normal.

All is well! Clean up, rest well and enjoy the bundle of joy in your arms!

Nothing is more rewarding than to carry the newborn in your arms after a tiring delivery.

Are you on the lookout for a confinement nanny or other postpartum services? CaregiverAsia has freelance caregivers providing these services at affordable rates and flexible hours! Call +65 6258 6683 to enquire now!

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Topics: All About Pregnancy

Jia Hui

Written by Jia Hui

Jia Hui enjoys learning about the breakthroughs in human health and life sciences research, and turn them into bite-sized articles for the busy cosmopolitans. Social media is part of both her career and her hobby, as she loves watching Instagram stories of “loafly doggos”.