While each labor is different, they all follow a similar path defined by various stages and phases.
First stage labor is typically broken into three phases; early, active and transition. The early phase is when birthing contractions begin and the cervix begins to open. These early contractions may last a few hours up to a few days. This is a good time to take care of any last-minute errands you wanted to get done before baby arrives, take a walk or prepare a freezer meal for your return home . It is important to drink plenty of fluids at this time and continue to relax.
As these mild contractions begin to get stronger and prevent you from holding a conversation, you are likely moving into the active phase. It is in this active phase that you will want to get to your birthing place, be that at home, in the hospital or elsewhere. You will want to focus on breathing through each rush and giving your energy to your baby. This is a good time to continue moving and getting into any position that feels comfortable for you – walking, sitting, crawling, whatever facilitates baby’s journey.
Just as you feel you are in control and are sure of where you are headed in labor, you’ll come to transition. It is in this phase that the cervix begins to fully open, reaching 8 -10 centimeters. Transition is often noted to be the most difficult experience in labor. Momma’s labor may seem unbearable in transition. Many mommas may feel like giving up at this point, which is coincidentally the point at which most mommas are closest to meeting their babies.
The rushes from transition will continue in the second stage and will be joined by the urge to push. Many women describe this urge to push as comparable to needing to have a bowel movement. You’ll want to pay close attention to what your body is telling you to do here – push when your body says to push and pause when your body says to pause. Momma’s low, growling and grunting sounds often accompany baby at this stage and help baby move through the final clearance of the birth canal. This stage ends with baby in momma’s arms.
What? Baby is here, this labor thing is over right? Well, not quite. After a few minutes of rest, it is time to push out the placenta. This will be guided by a few more contractions. There are many options of what to do with the placenta. This should be discussed with your birth team before hand.
At this point, you also want to be skin to skin with baby. Skin to skin contact regulates baby’s body temperature and heartbeat. This is also the time that baby will snuggle up to the breast to begin feeding,
Now you can relax. Kiss your partner and nurse your baby when you are both ready. Then prepare to rest and enjoy your new miracle.