Once you near full term in pregnancy, the biggest anxiety is whether you would be able to go through the labour process smoothly. Learning about the three stages of labour will help you gain confidence in this last leg of pregnancy.
Usually, this stage is preceded by a ‘show ‘, which is a mucous-like blood-tinged vaginal discharge. This is dislodged cervical mucous plug that is shed at the start of the labour process. Then the first stage begins with the regular uterine contractions that open (dilate) the cervix (mouth of the uterus). The cervix dilates from 1-2 cms to full dilatation. Tthe cervix is fully dilated at 10 centimeters (which is also the size of the baby’s head).
A typical pattern is to experience one contraction of about 40 to 50 seconds every ten minutes at the beginning of this stage, and one contraction lasting more than minute and coming every 1-2 minutes or so at the end of labour. By this time, the cervix is fully open and wide enough for the final descent and birth of your baby’s head.
During the first stage, it helps to keep active by walking around or by trying out different positions, such as leaning against something or getting on all fours. Back massage, aromatherapy and TENS also can help in the early stages for pain relief.
If you are unable to bear the pain, you may opt for an Epidural Analgesia by the time you are 3-5 cms dilated. This will help you to bear the pain and continue the labour and hopefully, achieve a vaginal birth. It is important to request the epidural at the “right” time, if you feel your contractions are getting unbrearable. This is because, if you leave it till you get much further on, it will be very difficult for you to sit still and this can make it challenging for the anaethetist to do the epidural procedure.