What is the process of labour?

Hormonal changes initiate the labour process.

As you progress towards the final weeks of pregnancy, your body reduces the production of the hormone progesterone and starts to increase the levels of hormones prostaglandin and oxytocin. These two hormones work to soften your cervix and initiate contractions.

A contraction occurs when the upper wall of your uterine muscles push down on your baby, and the lower wall of your uterine muscles tighten and pull up to open your cervix.

Throughout pregnancy your cervix is tightly closed and sealed with a mucus plug. In the days before you give birth (or during labour), this mucus plug will come lose and fall out.

Your waters will break. This occurs when the amniotic sac around your baby ruptures and the fluid that has been surrounding your baby releases. This can either feel like a trickle or your might experience a gush of fluid.

As your contractions become regular, your cervix will start to thin and dilate (open). Thinning of your cervix is when the length of the cervix becomes thin. Dilation is when your cervix opens and is measured in centimetres.

In the early first stage of labour, your cervix will open to about 4 to 5 centimetres.

You move into active labor, where your contractions become closer together and increase in duration and intensity.

At this time, your cervix continues to open to about 9 to 10 centimetres also known as the transition phase. During transition your body releases the hormone adrenaline which may cause you to feel anxious and hesitant about continuing labour.

At about 10 centimetres your cervix is fully dilated and you are ready to move into the second stage of labour.

During the second stage of labour, you will experience an urge to push in order to move your baby down the birth canal.

Crowning is when your perineum (the area between your vagina and anus) is fully stretched open and the widest part of your baby's head comes through.

With further contractions your baby's shoulders and body are born.

Your baby senses the change of temperature and takes his or her first breath.

The third stage of labor is when you birth the placenta. The placenta comes away from the uterine wall and is expelled.

The birth process is now finished.

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