Every woman experiences labour differently. Nobody can predict what your labour will be like or how long it will last. But there are plenty of things you can do to prepare yourself. Here is what to expect when it is time to give birth.
Contractions become stronger, longer and closer together. The cervix is dilating at a rate of about one centimetre per hour. From four centimetres onward, you are in active labour.
For many women, this is the toughest part of childbirth. Contractions come one after the other as your cervix dilates to 10 centimetres. You may feel like you can no longer cope or even start vomiting or trembling, especially in your legs. It is also common to feel flushed, overwhelmed and panicky. Thankfully, transition is usually the shortest stage of labour.
When the cervix is fully dilated and your baby’s head has descended, you are ready to push. Most women feel a strong urge to push that can be almost impossible to resist, coming in several surges through each contraction. Each push moves the baby forward a little, but when the contraction ends, the baby slides back. When the baby’s head crowns at the entrance of the vagina, you will feel a burning sensation as the skin stretches. With another contraction or two, the head will emerge. Once the shoulders are out, the rest of the baby usually slips out quickly.
Even after your baby is born, your labour is not quite over. The umbilical cord will be clamped and cut. You will experience a few more contractions as you deliver the placenta.
Every woman’s labour is different. Talk to your health professional or midwife if you have questions or concerns.