Labor can be a long and challenging process, but you don’t have to go through it alone.
Most women feel like they are the only ones going through labor, but that is far from the truth. In fact, according to the American Pregnancy Association, about 25% of women in the U.S. give birth via c-section.
Fear of labor is common, but it doesn’t have to be. Labor can be an incredibly empowering experience. It’s natural to feel a little anxious about labor, but remember that you are not alone. Many resources are available to help you through labor, including your doctor, midwife, or doula.
There are three stages of labor: early labor, active labor, and transition labor. The first stage is early labor, when your cervix dilates and effaces (thin out). This stage can last anywhere from hours to days. The second stage is active labor when your cervix dilates to 10 cm, and your baby begins to move down the birth canal. This stage usually lasts for a few hours. The third stage is transition labor, when your cervix dilates to full dilation and the baby is born. This stage usually lasts for a few minutes.
This blog will take you through each stage of labor with information on what to expect. This guide will help you feel more prepared for labor and delivery, whether this is your first baby or your fifth.
So here are the stages of labor explained.
Labor is the physical process of giving birth. It is divided into three stages: early labor, active labor, and transition labor.
- Early labor
In early labor, the cervix opens, and the baby starts to move down the birth canal. This stage can last for hours or days.
During early labor, you can expect to experience some or all of the following:
- Mild contractions that come and go
- Increased discharge from the vagina
- Rupture of membranes (water breaking)
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of appetite
During early labor, you can relax and prepare for the birth of your baby. You can also do the following:
- Drink plenty of fluids
- Take a warm bath or shower
- Eat light snacks
- Get some rest
- Talk to your partner or labor support person
- Active labor
In active labor, the cervix is fully dilated, and the baby is moving through the birth canal. This stage lasts for a few hours.
During active labor, you can expect to experience some or all of the following:
- Strong contractions that come every 5 minutes and last for a minute or more
- The baby moving down the birth canal
- Loss of the mucous plug
- Rupture of the membranes
- Expulsion of the baby’s water sac (waters breaking)
- Increased energy
- Nausea and vomiting may lessen or stop altogether
- A feeling of intense pressure in the vagina
Active labor is when the cervix dilates to 10 cm, and the baby begins to move down the birth canal. This stage usually lasts for a few hours.
While in active labor, it is essential to stay hydrated. You can drink fluids such as water, juice, and sports drinks. You can also eat light snacks such as crackers, toast, or soup. It is also important to get some rest. You can take a break whenever you need to, even if it’s just for a few minutes. You should also talk to your partner or labor support person about your feelings and what you want them to do.
- Transition labor
In transition labor, the baby is almost ready to be born. This stage can last for a few minutes or a few hours.
During transition labor, you can expect to experience almost the same sensations as active labor except for intense contractions that come every 3 minutes and last for a minute or more.
The baby is almost ready to be born during transition labor.
If you are in transition labor, you must let your doctor know how you feel. You should tell them if you are experiencing any intensified manifestations of the following:
- A feeling of intense pressure in the vagina
- Increased energy
- Rupture of membranes
There are many ways to make labor less painful. You can try different labor pain relief methods such as breathing exercises, relaxation techniques, or using a labor pain relief ball. You can also ask your doctor about medication options such as epidural anesthesia or narcotic analgesics.
You will likely experience some discomfort during labor, but it varies from person to person. Some women feel a lot of pain, while others only feel a little. Some things can be done to help ease the discomfort, such as labor epidurals.
To prepare for labor, talk to your doctor, labor support person, or midwife about the labor process. Ask them about what you can expect. This will help you feel more prepared and less anxious.
You can have these questions lined up on your next visit to the doctor:
- What are my labor pain relief options?
- What will happen during labor?
- How long will labor last?
- When will I know that labor has started?
- What should I do if I have contractions but am unsure if it is labor?
- What should I do if my water breaks but I don’t think the baby is ready to be born?
- How will I know when the baby is ready to be born?
- What happens after the baby is born?
Another way to prepare for labor is to practice relaxation techniques. You can practice deep breathing exercises, yoga, or Pilates. This will help you stay calm and relaxed during labor.
It is also essential to stay hydrated during labor. Drink plenty of fluids such as water, juice, and sports drinks. You can also eat light snacks such as crackers, toast, or soup.
Finally, make sure you have your labor support person lined up. This person can be your partner, a friend, or a family member. They can provide emotional support throughout labor.
You will likely be tired after labor. You may also experience mild pain, bruising, and swelling. This is normal and will go away in a few days.
You should drink plenty of fluids and eat healthy foods to help your body heal. Try to avoid caffeine, alcohol, and processed foods. These can all have adverse effects on your body after labor.
It is also essential to spend time with your new baby. Bond with them and enjoy this particular time together.
It is important to remember that every labor is different. Some women will progress quickly through labor, while others will take their time. The most important thing is to stay calm and focus on your breathing.
Labor is a natural process that your body was made to do!
MamaThrive is here to help.
Black women should understand their health well and the risks associated with pregnancy. They should be proactive in seeking information from their healthcare providers about how to stay healthy during pregnancy using an efficient telehealth program that provides that is accessible 24/7. And MamaThrive does just that. We give accessible information and services to black women who require help and support about labor and birth. Take your pregnancy at high-priority with MamaThrive as your partner!