Labour is divided into three stages.
First stage - latent and active
- Your cervix thins and stretches during the latent first stage and during active first stage the cervix dilates 10 cm.
- In the latent stage you may feel a backache and your membranes may rupture (water breaks). During this phase eat some small nutritious snacks, drink water, and rest.
- In the active stage, you will experience your first contractions. You may feel nauseated. Try to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids.
- The first stage of labour normally lasts anywhere from 2 to 12 hours.
- While the cervix finishes dilating from 8 to 10 cm, you are in transition from the first to the second stage of labour.
- At the second stage of labour, the baby’s head will begin to show.
- You will now begin pushing.
- The second stage of labour ends with the delivery of the baby.
- Labour and contractions continue with the third stage.
- During the third stage, the body works to expel the placenta. Usually within 20 minutes of the birth, you will work to push the placenta out.
Come to the hospital when…
- You experience regular, moderately uncomfortable contractions lasting about 45 to 60 seconds and occurring at approximately three-minute to five-minute intervals;
- You have bright red bleeding, other than normal “blood show,” with or without contractions; or
- Your “water breaks” (amniotic sac ruptures), with or without contractions and your doctor or midwife has advised you by telephone to come to the hospital.
If you think you are in labour, call your doctor or midwife. If you cannot reach your doctor or midwife, call the labour and delivery unit of your hospital. Labour and delivery telephone numbers for Vancouver Island hospitals are listed here.
(Source: Having Your Baby at Victoria General Hospital pamphlet.)