The moment you have been waiting for has arrived but what do you do? You’re excited, nervous, want to ring everyone and hide all at the same time, but what do you do when you realise those Braxton Hicks are actually the real deal? Like pregnancy, your labour is broken down into 3 stages and we will take a look at each stage now. 1st Stage of Labour At the start of labour your cervix will soften so it can open and let baby out, sounds simple doesn’t it. You will most likely start by having irregular contractions which at first you may think are Braxton Hicks, this stage is called the latent phase and can last for hours or even days. If it is night-time then the best thing to do is go to bed and try and rest as much as possible as this could go on for a long time, you will be woken up if things start to happen. If it is during the day, then try and keep upright and active so gravity can help move baby down into your pelvis and help your cervix dilate. Try to eat and drink as you will need energy for later in the labour. When your cervix is 4cm dilated and you are experiencing regular contractions then you are in established labour. If you are uncomfortable during this stage, then a warm bath may help ease the pain or breathing exercises. When to call your midwife / or hospital You don’t want to contact or go to hospital too early as they may suggest you go home again and so try and stay at home as long as possible, however it is important to call the midwife if any of the below happen: Your contractions are regular, and you are having about 3 in every 10 minute period Your waters break Your contractions are very strong, and you are in need of pain relief You're worried about anything When you do go into hospital / midwife centre or the midwife arrives if you are having a home birth, then they will check on you during established labour to check how you are progressing and offer any pain relief if required. Try and remain as active as you can, walk around or get into a comfortable position. The midwife will offer regular vaginal examinations to see if you are fully dilated, which is about 10cm, enough room for your baby’s head to pass through. 2nd Stage of Labour When your cervix is fully dilated, around 10 cm then you are in the 2nd stage of labour, until baby is born. Your midwife will encourage you to get comfortable which could be sitting, standing, kneeling or squatting, everyone is different and you may find you want to change positions throughout. You may get an urge to push, a bit like you need a poo and you may be encouraged to push during a contraction. This stage is quicker than the first and shouldn’t last longer than 3 hours. The midwife will let you, know when baby’s head is ready to come out and will guide you through the birth, once their head is out the hardest bit is over. When baby is born you will usually be able to hold them immediately and you can enjoy some skin-on-skin time. If you are breastfeeding baby then this is usually encouraged within an hour of birth. 3rd Stage of Labour This is the final stage and is after baby is born and your womb contracts and the placenta comes out. You have two choices for this; Active – you have treatment (an injection) to make it happen faster Physiological – no treatment and let this happen naturally Both of these options will be discussed with you during the later stages of pregnancy and then again during early labour. Once your placenta is out you should be able to enjoy some one on one time with your baby. Welcome to motherhood!