As a mother-to-be, one of the most important things you need to know is how labour contractions progress. It’s important to understand how the stages of labour work so you can be better prepared for what’s to come. In this article, we will take a closer look at the anatomy of labour and how it progresses from the early stages to the final push.
What are contractions?
Contractions are the rhythmic tightening and relaxation of the uterine muscles during labour. The tightening is essential to help the cervix dilate and move the baby down the birth canal. As contractions progress, they become stronger and closer together, leading to the eventual delivery of the baby.
The three stages of labour
There are three stages of labour, each with their own unique characteristics. These stages are:
1. Early labour – During this stage, the cervix begins to dilate and efface, or thin out. Contractions are typically mild and irregular, lasting between 30 to 60 seconds, and occurring every 5 to 20 minutes. This stage can last for several hours or even days.
2. Active labour – This is the stage where contractions become stronger, longer, and closer together. The cervix will continue to dilate and efface, and you may experience other signs of labour such as the breaking of your water, nausea, or vomiting. Contractions during this stage typically last between 45 to 60 seconds, occurring every 3 to 5 minutes. This stage can last anywhere from a few hours to several more.
3. Transition – This is the final stage of labour where contractions become the strongest and most intense. The cervix will complete its dilation and effacement, so it’s time to push. Contractions during this stage typically last between 60 to 90 seconds, occurring every 2 to 3 minutes. This stage can last anywhere from a few minutes to an hour.
It’s important to note that these stages are not the same for everyone. Some women may experience a shorter or longer first stage of labour, while others may have a longer transitional stage.
To track the progress of your labour, your doctor or midwife will measure the frequency, duration, and intensity of your contractions. They will use a machine called a tocodynamometer to measure the strength and frequency of your contractions and check your cervix regularly.
In conclusion, labour contractions progress in three stages, each with unique characteristics. It’s important to understand the different stages of labour, so you know what to expect and can be better prepared for what’s to come. Remember to communicate with your healthcare provider and let them know how you’re feeling at each stage. With proper preparation and support, you can have a successful and safe delivery.