The Stages of Labor
Understand your body, so you know how to work with it
Learn how to flow with each stage
The Three Stages of Labor
Labor can be divided into three separate stages. The first stage can be characterized by the opening that is occurring. The mother's cervix is being opened by the upward direction of the uterine muscle, forming a strong platform on the top of the uterus that will move the baby down and through her body. She will open to roughly 10 centimeters. This opening phase can be divided into two parts: Early/Latent and Active Labor. The second stage begins once the baby has emerged through the cervical opening and into the vaginal canal. She may breathe deeply and release all tension in her pelvic floor as the baby descends or she may feel invigorated to actively push. She may feel an overwhelming urge to push and may feel like her body is guiding her. The third stage occurs once the baby has emerged from her body and is earthside. This stage is the delivery of the placenta.
Early /Latent Labor can stop and start, last for hours, days or even weeks, and can vary widely. You may feel a lot of excitement and anticipation. This can drain you over time. Well meaning family might add to the stress with calls, inquiring into your progress or lack thereof. This may become distracting and discouraging if you are not able to share any news. A laboring mom might not have an easy time progressing when she feels observed. Her labor hormones may be inhibited. The most important thing to implement during this phase is to ignore it. Go about your daily routine to the greatest extent possible. Focus on nourishing and nurturing yourself. Eat regular meals to conserve energy. Drink nutritious fluids, electrolytes, and hydrate well. Sleep at normal times and nap as well. Don't give the contractions attention until they demand all of your focus. Breathe and sway through them and then go back to what you were doing. Meditate, do yoga, and watch a funny movie. Distract yourself. Take a warm bath. Drink some chamomile tea. Get a massage. Go for a walk. Finish going through the baby clothes after taking a nap. Cook a healthy meal. Squat, do the Miles Circuit and the Side-Lying Release. Focus on your birth affirmations and guided visualizations.
This is a time for patience and acceptance.
Let the hormones flow.
Your body and your baby are wise.
Active Labor: 1st Stage
The Active phase of labor can be characterized by the length of the actual contraction being 60 seconds or longer and the mother's emotional signs. She will stop engaging with the world around her when she focuses inward on the stronger and longer contractions. In general, these contractions look like: 60 seconds or more, 3-5 minutes apart, and strong.
She believed she could, so she did.
Once the mother's body opens to 10 centimeters, the baby moves out of the uterus and into the vaginal canal. She then begins to help her body with the 2nd stage of labor with deep breathing and deep relaxation or by pulling her belly button into her spine and pushing her baby down and through. It is very helpful for many moms to have something to hold and pull for this stage, such as a rebozo, their partner's hands, a squat bar or another stable source of traction.
Delivery of the Placenta: 3rd Stage
Once the baby is born and ideally placed skin to skin, the placenta is inside, transfusing blood to the baby. The baby continues to receive rich stem cells and oxygen as it transitions to breathing and life outside the womb. The mother's body regulates the baby's temperature and the physical contact helps to stabilize the baby's heart rate and breathing. The stimulation of the baby on the mother helps her to continue producing protective hormones that encourage the placenta to detach well in and the uterus to continue to contract efficiently. It is important for the contractions to continue, so that the bleeding can be controlled. This stage might last around 15 minutes, roughly.