If you know nothing of what's coming here's the basics of what to expect.
PHASE 1: EARLY LABOR
- Contractions last 30 - 60 sec; 20 min apart max
- Bloody show (aka the loss of your cervical plug)
- Water breaking (or not - only occurs for 20% of women at the onset of labor)
- Diarrhea or loose stools are also common.
Labor contractions are powerful waves of movement moving both down and across your uterine muscles that first thin your cervix and then begin to slowly press your baby out of the uterus and down into the birth canal.
PHASE 2: ACTIVE LABOR
- Contractions are developing in intensity and last for 45 to 60 seconds; 3 to 5 minutes apart.
Tip: Labor is not always a linear process. It can start and then recede. The more active you are, the more you're going to progress. The more you're relaxing horizontally and taking baths, the more slowly labor will progress.
PHASE 3: TRANSITION
- Contractions are non-stop.
- If you wait, you'll feel an irresistible need to bear down and push as if you were going to take the world's biggest poop.
PHASE 4: DELIVERY OF YOUR BABY
- You're pushing your baby out into the world!
- You may receive coaching to push, depending on your birthing team.
PHASE 5: DELIVERY OF THE PLACENTA
- Breastfeeding helps deliver the placenta as it makes the uterus contract.
- The placental-delivery contractions are nothing compared to what you felt prior to delivering your baby.