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1st stage of Childbirth: All You Need To Know

by | November 30, 2018

No two labors are identical and there is no way to know exactly how everything will pan out. However, you can know the stages of the birth process and what to generally expect. Read further to know all about 1st stage of childbirth

1st stage of childbirth
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Childbirth, unless in the case of a c-section, occurs in three stages:

1st stage of childbirth

The beginning of labor until the cervix is completely dilated to 10 cm.

2nd stage of childbirth

The period after the cervix is dilated to 10 cm until the baby is delivered.

3rd stage of childbirth

Delivery of the placenta.

More about the first stage

First Stage of Labor is the longest stage of labor, and it has three phases:

Early Labor Phase –The beginning of labor until the cervix is dilated to 3 cm.
Active Labor Phase – From 3 cm. until the cervix is dilated to 7 cm.
Transition Phase – From 7 cm. until the cervix is fully dilated to 10 cm.

Scroll further to know more about 1st stage of childbirth.


Early Labor

What to do:

You may feel excitement, relief, anticipation, uncertainty, anxiety or even fear. All of these reactions are very normal. It’s important to try to relax as much as you can during the early phases of labor — you’ll need to save your energy for later.

During this phase, you should just try to relax. It is not necessary to rush to the hospital. Try to enjoy the comfort of home.

Keep yourself occupied while conserving your energy. Drink plenty of water and eat small snacks. Keep track of your contractions.

What to expect:

You’ll experience mild to moderate contractions that last 30 to 45 seconds, though they can be shorter, and might be regular or irregular. They may be spaced around 20 minutes apart and become progressively closer together, but not necessarily in a consistent pattern. You may not even notice them until the final two to six hours; if you’re dilating gradually over a period of days or weeks, you probably won’t feel them at all until labor starts in earnest. During early labor, you also might experience any of the following labor signs:

Backache (constant or with each contraction)
Menstrual-like cramps
Lower abdominal pressure
A sensation of warmth in the abdomen
Blood-tinged mucous discharge (also known as bloody show)
Rupture of the amniotic membranes (i.e. your water will break), though it’s more likely to happen sometime during active labor

When your water breaks (amniotic sac rupture), note the following:

Color of fluid
Odor of fluid
Time rupture occurred

Active Labor Phase

What to do:

It’s time for you to go to the hospital or birth center. Your contractions will be stronger, longer and closer together. It is important that you have plenty of support. It is also a good time to start your breathing techniques and try some relaxation exercises between contractions.

You should switch positions as much as you can during this time. You might try walking or taking a warm bath. Continue to drink plenty of water.

What to expect:

Your contractions will grow more concentrated and increasingly more intense — in other words, painful. As they become stronger and longer (typically lasting 40 to 60 seconds, with a distinct peak halfway through) and more frequent (coming every three to four minutes, though the pattern may not be regular), you can expect to feel all of the following (you won’t feel pain if you’ve had an epidural by this point):

Increasing pain and discomfort with contractions (you may not be able to talk through them now)
Increasing backache
Leg discomfort or heaviness
Increasing bloody show
Rupture of the membranes if they haven’t already (or your membranes might be ruptured artificially now though according to 2017 recommendations by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), some women with low-risk pregnancies who are progressing normally through labor and whose babies aren’t getting internal fetal monitoring may not need their water broken by doctors.

Transition Phase

What to do:

During this phase, the mother will rely heavily on her support person. This is the most challenging phase, but it is also the shortest. Try to think “one contraction at a time” (this may be hard to do if the contractions are very close together). Remember how far you have already come, and when you feel an urge to push, tell your health care provider.

What to expect:

The intensity of your contractions will pick up. They may become very strong and 60 to 90 seconds long, and with very intense peaks that last for most of the contraction. Because they’re spaced only about two or three minutes apart, it may seem as though you barely get to relax before the next contraction begins. During transition, unless you’re numbed by an epidural or other pain relief, you may feel:

Strong pressure in the lower back and/or perineum
Rectal pressure, with or without an urge to push
An increase in bloody show as capillaries in the cervix rupture
Feeling very warm and sweaty or chilled and shaky
Crampy legs that may tremble uncontrollably
Nausea and/or vomiting
Drowsiness between contractions
A tightening sensation in your throat or chest
Fatigue or exhaustion

When you’re 10 cm dilated it will be time to push!

If you have any more queries about 1st stage of childbirth, let us know in the comments below. 


Julie Nealon

Associate Editor, New York USA | Contactable via [email protected]



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