What happens in the second stage of labour?
This is the stage when your baby is born. During the second stage of labour, your baby will descend into your vagina (the birth canal) and you’ll push your baby down and out to meet you for the first time.
You’ll feel the pressure of your baby’s head low down in your pelvis, and with each contraction, you may feel strong urges to bear down. Listen to your body, and push in response to the urges. Take a few breaths between pushes if that’s what feels right.
With every push, your baby will move further through your pelvis, but at the end of the contraction, he’ll probably slip back a little again. This is normal and gives the muscles of your pelvic floor time to stretch gradually. As long as your baby keeps gradually moving down, you’re doing fine.
When your baby’s head is visible at the entrance to your vagina and stays there when the contraction has ended, it’s called crowning.
Your midwife will tell you when she can see your baby’s head, and may ask you to stop pushing and blow or sigh out your breaths. This helps you to resist the urge to bear down for two contractions or three contractions, so that your baby is born gently and slowly.
Taking this approach may help to protect your perineum (the area between your vulva and your anus). You’ll probably feel a hot, stinging sensation, as the opening of your vagina starts to stretch around your baby’s head. Your midwife may use warm compresses to support your perineum as it stretches to help to prevent a tear.
Once your baby is born, he’ll be dried off with a clean towel and then placed onto your tummy or chest for skin to skin
What happens in the third stage of labour?
The third stage of labour begins once your baby is born, and ends when you deliver the placenta and the empty bag of waters that are attached to the placenta (membranes). These come away as your womb contracts down after the birth.
Your contractions will be noticeable but weaker when they begin again. The placenta will peel away from the wall of your womb and move down the birth canal into your vagina. You may get the urge to push as this happens.
It’s routine to be offered an injection for the third stage that helps your womb to contract down and the placenta to come away. This may cause side-effects such as nausea and vomiting, because of the drugs used. You won’t have to do any pushing, as once it’s detached, your midwife will gently pull out the placenta and membranes.
If all went well in your pregnancy and labour, you can choose to have a natural (physiological) third stage. This is when you deliver the placenta without an injection. Upright positions, skin to skin contact with your baby, and starting to breastfeed your baby may all help to stimulate contractions to help you deliver the placenta.
Whether you have a natural or a managed third stage, it’s recommended to wait at least a few minutes before clamping the cord, which will benefit your baby. While all this is going on, you’re likely to be cuddling and getting to know your newborn better.