During the beginning of your pregnancy, thoughts revolved around the miraculous stages of your baby’s development in-utero. You focused on pre-natal care, made sure to eat healthy foods, remain hydrated, and you paid attention to every flutter, nudge, and shift in position as your baby grew. Once you reach the third trimester, expectations – and apprehensions – can begin to build around childbirth, and what to expect. The more you know about what is happening inside your body, and what to expect from labor, the better prepared you will be as this phenomenal event transpires.

Sign up for childbirth classes. We recommend you attend a childbirth class with a birth partner. These classes are usually held for women who are at least seven months pregnant. They last about six weeks and will go over the details of pregnancy, the physiology of labor, interventions and birthing options, how to create a birth plan, as well as breathing and positioning techniques to help to relieve child labor pains and discomfort during active labor.

How do I know when I am in labor?

This is one of the most common questions we receive from first-time mothers. During the last weeks of your pregnancy, it’s common to experience “practice contractions”, officially called Braxton Hicks. These are your body’s way to position the baby and gear up for the real deal. These contractions are noticeable, but are rarely very strong, and they don’t usually involve the lower back or the entire abdominal wall. They will also be sporadic, without rhythm.

When you’re in labor, your contractions will become more regular and will increase in strength over time. We ask our first-time mothers to give us a call when the contractions become five minutes apart for at least an hour and are becoming more painful. If your water breaks, you should call your healthcare provider regardless of whether or not you are having contractions.

Stages of Child Labor

There are three stages of labor, the third of which is the delivery of the placenta after your baby is born. The first two stages are what most women are more concerned about. Labor is completely unpredictable so each stage will take as long as it needs to take for your body to deliver your beautiful baby.

Stage 1. This stage is divided into early and active child labor.

Early labor begins with the first non-Braxton Hicks contractions begin. During this phase, a woman can carry on a conversation and is usually only mildly affected. It can last for hours, and sometimes a day or so with a first-time mom. Your cervix begins to open (dilate) and thin out (efface), preparing your baby to leave the birth canal.

Active labor. This is when your childbirth preparation comes into play as you and your birthing partner work together to breathe, focus, move, and find positions and techniques to keep you as comfortable as possible. Your contractions will become stronger and closer together. At this point, many women go into “the zone” and may not be able to concentrate or focus on anything other than the process unfolding inside their body. Make sure your doctor has explained all of your intervention options, including their benefits, complications, and risks.

Stage 2. The baby is born! Some women have a strong urge to push; others experience their body doing the bulk of the work instinctively. Your birthing team will help to ensure the safe delivery of your baby.

Childbirth and labor takes many forms depending on your birthing location. Whether you’re in a hospital, birthing center, or at home, it’s important that you and your partner discuss the options and create a birthing plan you’re comfortable with.