The Stages of Labour

Birth isn’t always like the movies. We’re breaking down the stages of labour from the first niggling pains to the birth of the placenta.

A lot of people think that as soon as labour pains begin, you dash erratically screaming and speeding to the hospital, like what you see on the movies. No, no – for the most part, it’s not like that…

We’re breaking down the stages of labour from the first niggles to having bub in your arms to the birth of the placenta. Let’s begin*!

*(Pregnant mamas – get your support person/people to look at this timeline – it’s a great reference tool so that they understand what you’re experiencing, what they can do to support you and what the midwife will be doing along the way. Also get them to check out this article on ways to support you during labour and birth).

P.S. As much as I’d love to be able to predict date of births, time of births, and mode of births (I’d be a bagillionaire) I can’t. Every one is different, and every labour is different, so this is just a rough anecdotal guide to each stage.

P.P.S. We haven’t spoken about pain relief options throughout the stages, but there’s stacks of evidence based info on pain relief here.

P.P.P.S. Lastly, membranes can rupture at any point in the birthing process, so we’ve left them off the timeline, as there’s no telling when this will happen.


Physical Signs women may experience:
– Irregular niggling pains (like period cramps)
– Contractions can be irregular, regular or not even felt.
– Loose bowels
– Bloody show (mucous plug that falls away from the opening of the cervix)
Emotions women may experience:
– Maybe this is it!
– Q: Should I go to the hospital now? (A: Call and speak to a birthing unit midwife, and they will help you with a bit of a plan for when to come in/ when to call back)
– I’m not sure if this is labour or not?!
Anxious – lots of walking…talking…smiling…restless…excitable…hungry…may not want to talk when having a contraction.

This period can last days, and be on and off. Some women won’t even notice this phase. This is the time where cervical changes begins.


Physical Signs women may experience:
– Pains are stronger, more regular
– May feel a pattern starting to emerge
– Talking through contractions is becoming more of an effort
Emotions women may experience:
– It’s happening!
– Committed to the process
– Confident…. “I can do it”
– Lots of position changing…figuring out what is working best as pain relief (article on pain relief) and for comfort.
-lots of walking

*Late first stage – women can become more insular…they’re working hard and have a ‘Shh, I’m working” attitude towards birth. They begin to close their eyes more. This is the time where women become less modest, and loose inhibition. They are starting to feel more tired and start talking about sleep and how tired they are.


Contractions can become more painful and frequent on that home stretch to being fully dilated (10cms). This is the point in time where a woman may begin to self doubt, may become confused, scream, tell you “she’s dying”… “giving up”…”going home”…
Women can become shaky, nauseous, vomit…have the urge to go to the toilet, as bub moves down the birth canal…it really depends.

As weird as it sounds this is a good sign! It means labour has progressed and baby is much closer to arriving!

SECOND STAGE – this is the pushing phase

Physical Signs women may experience:
– Mucousy show
– A second burst of energy
– Urge to go to the loo
– Spontaneously pushing
*  experience feelings of stretching, stinging, burning – all are common.
Emotions women may experience:
– More alert
– Chattier
– May be tired and sleep between contractions
– Calmer after transition
– Desire to focus so she can meet her baby

——————————-Baby Arrives!!!————————
via Buzzfeed
via Buzzfeed


The birth of the placenta, can be either physiologically or actively managed (we will write a post on these modes of delivery soon!). Hopefully this will all be happening whilst you’re snuggling with your bub. Make sure you have a squiz at our article on delayed cord clamping – it’s a must read for mamas-to-be.

Because this isn’t the most evidence-based article we’ve written, here are some references so you can do some extra homework x

Click to access having-a-baby.pdf


Author: Winnie Wagtail

My vision for Winnie Wagtail is to arm parents-to-be and new parents with loads of relevant, evidence-based info, to help them make informed decisions moving forward as parents. Winnie Wagtail is totally judgement free and whatever you wish to do with the info we provide is totally your call!

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