Baby: Labour and Birth (stages 1 to 3)

Exciting but a bit scary

The first question to think about is “How will I know that I am in labour?” This is an important question since Braxton Hicks contractions can be strong enough to be confused with the real thing. However the contractions need to be regular and increasingly frequent to constitute real labour. If the contractions are relieved by moving or your show is a brownish colour, then this would be termed false labour. You should view this as an important stage in the softening of the cervix and avoid getting demoralised or tired out by the process. Real labour may be accompanied by weight loss of around 1kg, change in energy levels (either strong nesting instinct which results in frantic cleaning, or a deep exhaustion), a bloody show, the mucous plug is discharged or your waters break. However any and all of these symptoms can appear in the last few weeks so the best indicator of real labour is still strong regular painful contractions. At this stage it is vital to keep in close contact with your doctor so that you can decide the correct time to go to hospital. Remember that very few people misjudge this and your feelings are a vital aspect of the decision process – if you want to go to hospital – go! Conservatively when there are regular contractions roughly 5 minutes apart would be a good time to go to hospital.

There are 3 stages of labour but life is not usually that straight forward, so don’t be surprised if you never identify any of these stages during your labour!


Stage 1 deals with the time between the onset of labour till the cervix is fully dilated, stage 2 with the pushing section of the labour as well as the birth, and stage 3 involves the delivery of the placenta. There are such huge variations in the time that each stage can take that it is difficult to generalise. The whole process may take an hour or a few days. Every case is unique and your doctor will be monitoring you and making decisions based on the situation right through the labour and birth. Decisions like induction and pain relief should be discussed when relevant and you should always feel that the best interests of you and the baby are paramount. By the same token you need to trust your doctor and follow his/her advice even if the outcome is not what you had planned. Keep reminding yourself that a healthy baby is the aim and if induction, forceps delivery or caesarean is the route to achieve that, then you have to find a way to accept that. Whatever the route that your labour takes, holding your baby for the first time will be a defining moment in your life and the start of a wonderful new adventure – motherhood! +27 (0)81 885 4683

*Important : The information provided is for information purposes only. No medical diagnosis or prescription can be inferred or is implied. Please consult your doctor for medical advice.

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