24 May 2022

Stages, duration, real and false labor, contractions... Everything you need to know about childbirth.

After nine months of pregnancy, comes the time of delivery. A moment of great excitement and joy. You will also have many questions. Contractions, the beginning of labor, stages, and duration… Here is everything you need to know about childbirth!

  • Between the 37th and 42nd week of pregnancy comes the natural process of childbirth, with the birth of your baby.
  • A few days before the big day, you will be able to analyze certain signs, such as constant fatigue, heavy legs, the fact that you have more frequent bowel movements, or that you find it harder to breathe.
  • Be careful, false contractions, called Braxton Hicks contractions, occur at the end of pregnancy. They can make you think that you are in labor.
  • However, the loss of water and regular contractions will be a sign that labor has really begun.

Labor can be split into three stages:

  • The latency phase with low-intensity contractions where your cervix will be opened to 3 centimeters.
  • The active phase, where the contractions are more intense and longer, will allow your cervix to open up to 7 centimeters. This is the stage that leads to your departure to the hospital's maternity ward.
  • The transitional phase is when your cervix opens up to 10 centimeters to allow your baby to come into the world.

A few things to know about the stages of labor:

  • For a first pregnancy, the total duration of these three stages is on average 12.5 hours and can last between 7 and 16 hours.
  • The duration depends on the physical and psychological state of the mother-to-be (fatigue, stress…).
  • When your cervix is open to ten centimeters, your baby can then enter the pelvis.
  • Your contractions will appear every two to three minutes.
  • With the help of the midwives, you will then have to push with the two breathing techniques that you will have learned during the childbirth preparation classes.
  • The push ends with a moment of joy: the birth of your baby and the first skin-to-skin contact.
  • After the birth, the midwives and the obstetrician will proceed with the expulsion of the placenta and a complimentary examination to ensure your post-delivery health.
  • Childbirth can be tough for some young mothers, who feel exhausted and out of strength.

Don't hesitate to ask for advice and help from the midwives, who will do everything they can to support you in your new role as a young mother!

Related Posts

In this article

Childbirth and pain: how to manage?


Are you worried about pain during childbirth?

  • Don't worry, everyone is.
  • But, even if you don't want to have an epidural, there are different ways to manage the pain in order to bring your baby into the world as calmly and pain-free as possible.
  • Haptonomy, breathing, movements, massages, exercises on the ball … the main thing is to think about all this well before the term of the pregnancy to reach the big day perfectly prepared.
  • To prepare the best you can, don't hesitate to sign up for childbirth preparation classes, where you will learn how to manage your pain as well as possible while bringing your baby to the world in serenity.

Giving birth under general anesthesia: why and how?


In more than half of all cases, women who are about to give birth are given a local anesthetic, the epidural. When is a general anesthetic appropriate?

  • If you are healthy, you probably won't need it.
  • However, if your baby's birth is causing dangerous complications, the medical team may decide to use it.
  • Some of the most common reasons for this procedure are emergency cesarean sections, manual placental abruption, or tearing of the perineum.
  • A general anesthetic is administered within minutes.

Baby is here!


If you're wondering how you're going to react when your baby finally shows up, one thing is for sure: you're in for a real treat!

  • Right after the final stage of delivery, your baby will be placed in your arms so that you can make contact with him/her.
  • This is usually an emotional moment, as you finally realize, even though you are exhausted, that you have just given birth to a little human being.
  • If you wish, you can talk to your little one softly or caress him/her, and he will be reassured by your presence.

Childbirth: the different stages of labor and their duration


Labor is the beginning of childbirth and occurs between the 37th and 42nd weeks of pregnancy. How can you tell when labor has begun, and how long does it last?

  • Labor usually begins when your water breaks, causing the first contractions, and ends when your cervix is 10 centimeters dilated.
  • It will be longer if it is your first baby: on average, 12 hours.
  • It consists of three phases.
  • The latency phase: moderate contractions every 5 to 30 minutes. At that stage, the cervix opens to 3 centimeters.
  • The active phase lasts from 3 to 6 hours, with contractions allowing the cervix to open to 7 centimeters.
  • In the transition phase, the cervix reaches its maximum at 10 centimeters. This phase ends with the descent and birth of the baby.
  • During all these phases of labor, do not hesitate to ask for support from your partner or the medical team.

Childbirth: the different phases of cervical opening


To prepare for childbirth, your body is inducing contractions to open your cervix. This dilation process is divided into three phases.

  • Latency phase: contractions are not very painful, spaced 5 to 30 minutes apart, and last between 30 and 45 seconds.
  • Active phase: contractions are more intense, closer together (2 to 5 minutes), and longer (40 to 70 seconds long).
  • Transition phase: you feel contractions that last 60 to 90 seconds every 2 to 3 minutes.
  • The cervix gradually dilates until it reaches 10 centimeters, its maximum. The baby is ready to come out!

Recognizing true labor contractions


You will most likely feel contractions throughout your pregnancy, but how do you know which ones mean your baby is on the way? Many moms-to-be worry that they won't recognize true contractions and know for sure that the time has come. Here are the main signs.

  • You feel strong pain in your belly, kidneys, or lumbar region.
  • The contractions are regular and getting closer and closer together.
  • They last longer and longer.
  • Their intensity increases over time.
  • Hot water does not relieve the pain.
  • If your contractions have been occurring every five minutes for about two hours, there is no doubt that you are in labor!

Loss of mucus plug and water breaking


When your baby is ready to be born, your body sends several signals, such as the loss of the mucus plug and your water breaking.

  • The mucus plug is a gel-like thick piece of mucus that forms in the cervix and serves to protect your baby from bacteria or infection.
  • It can be expelled at any time during the third trimester without you noticing.
  • Water breaking is the rupture of the amniotic sac and the flow of fluid in which the fetus grows.
  • In most cases, this phenomenon occurs after the 37th week of pregnancy.

The placenta, a protective and nourishing element


During your pregnancy, the placenta plays an important role. Attached to your uterus, it serves for all exchanges with your baby.

  • The placenta forms at the beginning of pregnancy and is fully formed by the end of the 5th month. It will continue to grow throughout pregnancy to reach a weight of about 500 grams.
  • Like an airlock, it allows exchanges between you and your baby without your respective blood mixing.
  • Thanks to the placenta, your baby is protected from certain bacteria, germs, and medications.
  • However, viruses such as HIV or hepatitis B are able to pass through the placenta.
  • Vaccinations and screening are the safest way to eliminate any risk of transmission.

Fatigue related to childbirth: how to cope?


I'm wrecked, I'm exhausted, I'm sooooooo tired… After giving birth, you feel like you've been hit by a train!

  • The fatigue associated with childbirth can be intense during the first few days.
  • So you're wondering how to cope with a newborn?
  • Between the feedings, the crying, the diapers, and all the daily life that has to be managed… Fatigue can quickly become overwhelming.
  • There's only one recipe: rest when baby lets you.
  • That means treating yourself to naps, resting every time it's doable, going to bed as early as possible, and taking your time to do things!

Is preterm or post-term delivery serious?


When you're pregnant, you're always told about the term, the date when you'll give birth!

  • But in reality, the term is only a theory…
  • It is very rare to give birth on the exact date.
  • We then talk about preterm or postterm delivery.
  • Even if your baby is a little early, it is not considered premature.
  • Giving birth one or even two weeks before term does not usually cause any problems for the baby.
  • Also, if everything goes well, there is no contraindication to going a few days past your due date.