By Karen Wallace
Stages of Labour
Involves commencement of regular painful contractions to dilate the cervix.
It is considered complete when the cervix is ‘fully’ dilated which is generally
regarded to be 10 centimetres. The latent phase of labour is when the contractions
are irregular in frequency, strength and duration. However, this does not
mean that you are not going to find these contractions painless. They will
be uncomfortable, but if you can rest between them it is important to do
so. Pacing and being super active at this stage will make you exhausted.
A warm bath or shower, hot pack and simple analgesia may help during this
The active phase of labour
will be more challenging. You will need to think about your
approach to it well in advance and maybe even make a ‘birth
plan’ to keep you on track. Make sure you inform your midwife
of what measures you would like to use to help you cope with
your labour. Transition is when the labouring is nearing second
stage. Often you can see a change in the labouring woman and
is estimated to be at 8-9 cm dilated. An accompanying ‘bloody
show’ is often noted.
Begins with the cervix being confirmed at fully dilated and ends with the birth
of your baby. This is the stage when both voluntary and involuntary pushing
will occur. It is mostly completed in 2 hours. The baby’s position and your
state of health/fatigue will impact of this stage.
This is the stage when the placenta and membranes separate from the uterine wall
and are expelled. This stage can be dealt with both actively or passively.
It is often advised to approach it actively to reduce the risk of the mother
bleeding profusely. The mother is given a tocolytic agent such as Syntocinon
to hasten the expulsion of the placenta allowing the uterus to contract tightly
thus minimising blood loss. If the passive approach is taken the placenta
can take 1 hour to be expelled.
There are many choices for pain relief in labour. The non-pharmacological methods
of massage, water therapy, acupuncture, reiki, TENS and imagery are all
appropriate for use in labour. It is important to try these prior to labour
and get advice form a qualified practitioner to enhance there success.
Other forms of pain relief
commonly used are Nitrous Oxide (commonly called happy / laughing
gas) Pethidine or an Epidural. These all have benefits and
risks and need to be discussed with your midwife prior to use.
Other issues related
It is important to be prepared both mentally and physically for your labour.
It is undoubtedly a stressful time but can also be an enjoyable time of love
and bonding if approached sensibly.
Remember to inform your
carer if your have any pre-existing medical conditions. Of
special note and consequence is a outbreak of lesions if you
are a Genital Herpes sufferer, or a current or previous diagnosis
of Group B Strep. These are easily managed.
It is really important
to keep up your fluids whilst in labour and sugar levels with
light snacks. Labour can be quite long and you will cope better
with the tiredness if your body is kept nourished. Avoid heavy
foods and anything greasy/milky. Also make sure your support
person doesn’t forget to eat and drink!
Lastly, it is an amazing
experience for all involved. Enjoy the celebration of a new
and important life – your baby’s.
is a Registered Nurse, Midwife, Bachelor of Nursing, Grad