The Stages of Childbirth: What You Should Know

Learning what happens in each stage of childbirth can be key to preventing fear, prejudice or uncertainty. At the very least, you'll know what's happening to your body, and how to wait for the arrival of your child.
The Stages of Childbirth: What You Should Know
Nelton Ramos

Reviewed and approved by the doctor Nelton Ramos.

Written by Yamila Papa

Last update: 27 December, 2022

Knowing what happens during the different stages of childbirth is important for future moms. It will help them better cope with the overall process and lower their anxiety level.

Keep in mind that lack of knowledge, fear and uncertainty can cause women to have a negative experience. So, to help mothers understand this exciting time better, and to see it as natural, we’ll explain each stage.

What are the stages of childbirth?

Each stage of childbirth has specific characteristics. Together, they make up the process by which the baby leaves the mother’s womb.

1. Onset of stages of childbirth

This period is at the beginning of labor. In addition, it doesn’t have a definite moment when you notice it. On the contrary, it appears progressively with different signs and symptoms. That way, women will know that delivery is near.

However, delivery can actually start up to two weeks before birth, and not all women notice it. The clear signs that you’re in this phase are contractions, which increase in frequency and intensity. In addition, your water will break, and you’ll feel greater pelvic pain.

The Stages of Childbirth: What You Should Know

2. Dilation

This is the first stage of childbirth itself. The main characteristic is that the cervix dilatesThis starts when contractions are between 3 and 15 minutes apart, and they last longer. Generally, they last between 30 seconds and two minutes.

However, this dilation period varies from woman to woman. It’s likely that a first-timer will have to go through this for 18 hours. On the other hand, a mother who has already given birth will have a shorter period.

“While the cervix dilates, the fetus descends through the pelvis in a narrow channel the size of his head.”

Dilation is divided into phases: latent, active and decelerating. It ends when the woman is fully dilated at 10 centimeters. Usually, there’s a latency period without contractions between complete dilation and delivery.

If dilation doesn’t happen, doctors can induce it through medications or manual procedures.

3. Birth

This is the second stage of labor. Birth starts when the baby goes through the birth canal, and it ends when the child is born.

For this to happen, there must be involuntary uterine contractions. There must also be “maternal bids” that speed up the process.

Within this stage, there are two phases: the early stage where the baby hasn’t yet descended, and the advanced expulsion. In this phase, the baby reaches the pelvic floor and the mother’s reaction is to push.

4. Delivery – the last stage

This is the last stage of childbirth, and it happens once the child has already been born. In fact, this happens when the placenta, umbilical cord and membranes are expelled. This might take up to half an hour.

The placenta completely detaches and expels once the umbilical cord goes through the vulva. The natural movement of the cord is known as Alfeld’s sign.

The Stages of Childbirth: What You Should Know

In fact, 95% of the time, placental abruption happens in the center of the uterus-placental junction. This mechanism is the Baudelocque-Schultze. However, it’s less common for the placenta to tear at the sides.

It’s important to know that during delivery, the uterine contractions continue. In fact, they do this to compress the vessels of the myometrium.

Some doctors include another process among the different stages of childbirth. They call this the “immediate puerperium” – where the baby and mother must be together. This is to help breastfeed and protect the child. This phase begins immediately after delivery and ends two hours later.

Knowledge brings peace of mind

It’s very important for every mother to know about the different stages of childbirth. In addition, you should ask your doctor if you have any other questions or doubts. Don’t skimp on this, since worrying can stress you out and take away from the experience. This information will help keep you calm and make you more confident.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.