Labour is divided into 3 stages. The first stage is the dilation of the cervix, the second stage is the birth of the baby, and the third stage is the delivery of the placenta. For first-time mothers, labour takes around 12 to 14 hours. Women who have undergone childbirth before can expect about 7 hours of labour.
The first stage can be divided into 3 phases – latent, active & transition.
- The latent phase of labour is from the onset of contractions until the cervix is 3cm. dilated. During this time the contractions will strengthen and become more frequent. This phase can last for many hours.
- The active phase is from 3cm. dilatation of the cervix to 8-9cm. The contractions will become more intense and more frequent and may last up to 70 seconds.
- In the transitional phase of labour, the remaining 1-2cm of the cervix disappears. The contractions become more forceful and you may experience a change of emotions and feel an urge to push with the contractions.
The second stage is from full dilatation (10cm) of the cervix until the baby is born. The contractions become expulsive in nature and most women will have an overwhelming urge to push.
The third stage is from birth of the baby until delivery of the placenta (afterbirth). This stage is comparatively painless and usually occurs within half an hour of the baby’s birth.