A Whistle Stop Tour of Birth

What actually happens during birth? Let’s understand the whole process at a glance, as well as how you might feel at every stage…

Remember, this is not a checklist of what will definitely happen to you, it is a guide to what you might expect to happen. Every body, every baby and every pregnancy is different!

First Stage of Labour

First up: nesting.

This is the sudden burst of energy you might experience close to giving birth which inspires you to clean and organise your surroundings in preparation for your baby’s arrival. This typically happens between 37-39 weeks of pregnancy. If you’ve been pregnant before and you’ve found yourself scrubbing down the skirting boards then it’s likely you were nesting. Think of this stage like a bird preparing their nest for their new brood of chicks, you are preparing your nest (or house) for your new arrival!

Remember to nest safely! Stay away from toxic cleaning products and don't climb or lift anything heavy.

pregnant_woman_nesting

Your baby’s head engages 

As your baby’s head moves down into your pelvis, it’s said to be ‘engaged’. You may notice at this stage that your bump drops down as your baby moves further down into your pelvis. As you near the end of pregnancy, your midwife will let you know if your baby’s head is engaged.

You’ll then experience irregular tightening - or twingey contractions - in what’s known as the ‘latent’ stage’ of labour. This can occur many hours or even days before the main event.

You might experience diarrhoea and sometimes vomiting, as your body clears out waste so that it can focus all its energy on birthing your baby instead of digesting food!

Hormones surge

Then, you’ll probably start to feel excited as your hormones kick in and you anticipate meeting your baby.

Your cervix begins to open slowly, and you experience an increase in oxytocin - our love hormone, which ensures the proper progression of labour.

You might then feel a need to move around, a desire to concentrate, and you’ll probably want to stop talking at this stage.

Transition 

Next, your waters might break (if they haven’t already) and your contractions will become more intense, before slowing down altogether as you enter a phase called ‘transition’. Some waters break at the start, some break during the first stage and some babies are born in their bag of waters!

You might start to feel shaky here, or have doubts and the reason for this is fascinating! We are mammals, and we give birth like mammals. Transition is the natural pause we would have taken when giving birth in a cave, in order to look for predators. Why? Because our baby is about to be born and we need to make sure they are safe and away from any danger! This evolutionary phenomenon provides us with a shot of adrenaline to make us very alert, and this is probably the only time it’s ever useful to have adrenaline in labour. At this stage, it’s important that we’re gently encouraged to hold fast and stay focused (unless we really mean it, of course!)

Second Stage of Labour

Contractions change

Now we move into stage two of labour. Your cervix is fully open, and your contractions will start to feel different.

They’ll become more intense, and you will feel a need to bear down or push.

You might poo here, and that’s completely normal! Let me pass on some advice from one Mum to another - don’t ever feel embarrassed about poo! If and when it happens it’ll be whisked away quickly and no one will care.

Crowning

You experience a huge rush of oxytocin as your baby’s head pushes against your pelvic floor. This fans your perineum muscles open so your baby’s head can be born with minimal or no tearing. You can feel your baby’s head crowning - and with one final push, you’re about to meet them!

Third Stage of Labour

Your baby is born

When your baby is eventually out in the world, you’ll get to hold them. You can now initiate skin-to-skin to facilitate breastfeeding and enhance bonding.

Your baby will make their own way to your chest in a process known as ‘breastcrawl’, and begin nuzzling at your breast. They will hopefully latch on and start suckling - but patience is key here!

Finally, time for afterbirth. Your placenta releases and the umbilical cord can be cut.

newborn_baby_on_mothers_chest

Celebrate

It’s time to enjoy your baby, and pop open the champagne!

I hope I’ve brought a bit more clarity to the various stages of labour, and that you now feel a little more clued up on what you can expect. For more guidance on pregnancy, birth, and beyond, head to the butterbean platform.

Remember, our YouTube channel and Instagram pages are both great resources of free information and support.

If you'd like to hear fascinating birth stories told by real women, head over to our podcast page 'Real Birth Stories'.

 

newborn_baby

A Whistle Stop Tour of Birth

newborn_baby

What actually happens during birth? Let’s understand the whole process at a glance, as well as how you might feel at every stage…

Remember, this is not a checklist of what will definitely happen to you, it is a guide to what you might expect to happen. Every body, every baby and every pregnancy is different!

First Stage of Labour

First up: nesting.

This is the sudden burst of energy you might experience close to giving birth which inspires you to clean and organise your surroundings in preparation for your baby’s arrival. This typically happens between 37-39 weeks of pregnancy. If you’ve been pregnant before and you’ve found yourself scrubbing down the skirting boards then it’s likely you were nesting. Think of this stage like a bird preparing their nest for their new brood of chicks, you are preparing your nest (or house) for your new arrival!

Remember to nest safely! Stay away from toxic cleaning products and don't climb or lift anything heavy.

pregnant_woman_nesting

Your baby’s head engages 

As your baby’s head moves down into your pelvis, it’s said to be ‘engaged’. You may notice at this stage that your bump drops down as your baby moves further down into your pelvis. As you near the end of pregnancy, your midwife will let you know if your baby’s head is engaged.

You’ll then experience irregular tightening - or twingey contractions - in what’s known as the ‘latent’ stage’ of labour. This can occur many hours or even days before the main event.

You might experience diarrhoea and sometimes vomiting, as your body clears out waste so that it can focus all its energy on birthing your baby instead of digesting food!

Hormones surge

Then, you’ll probably start to feel excited as your hormones kick in and you anticipate meeting your baby.

Your cervix begins to open slowly, and you experience an increase in oxytocin - our love hormone, which ensures the proper progression of labour.

You might then feel a need to move around, a desire to concentrate, and you’ll probably want to stop talking at this stage.

Transition 

Next, your waters might break (if they haven’t already) and your contractions will become more intense, before slowing down altogether as you enter a phase called ‘transition’. Some waters break at the start, some break during the first stage and some babies are born in their bag of waters!

You might start to feel shaky here, or have doubts and the reason for this is fascinating! We are mammals, and we give birth like mammals. Transition is the natural pause we would have taken when giving birth in a cave, in order to look for predators. Why? Because our baby is about to be born and we need to make sure they are safe and away from any danger! This evolutionary phenomenon provides us with a shot of adrenaline to make us very alert, and this is probably the only time it’s ever useful to have adrenaline in labour. At this stage, it’s important that we’re gently encouraged to hold fast and stay focused (unless we really mean it, of course!)

Second Stage of Labour

Contractions change

Now we move into stage two of labour. Your cervix is fully open, and your contractions will start to feel different.

They’ll become more intense, and you will feel a need to bear down or push.

You might poo here, and that’s completely normal! Let me pass on some advice from one Mum to another - don’t ever feel embarrassed about poo! If and when it happens it’ll be whisked away quickly and no one will care.

Crowning

You experience a huge rush of oxytocin as your baby’s head pushes against your pelvic floor. This fans your perineum muscles open so your baby’s head can be born with minimal or no tearing. You can feel your baby’s head crowning - and with one final push, you’re about to meet them!

Third Stage of Labour

Your baby is born

When your baby is eventually out in the world, you’ll get to hold them. You can now initiate skin-to-skin to facilitate breastfeeding and enhance bonding.

Your baby will make their own way to your chest in a process known as ‘breastcrawl’, and begin nuzzling at your breast. They will hopefully latch on and start suckling - but patience is key here!

Finally, time for afterbirth. Your placenta releases and the umbilical cord can be cut.

newborn_baby_on_mothers_chest

Celebrate

It’s time to enjoy your baby, and pop open the champagne!

I hope I’ve brought a bit more clarity to the various stages of labour, and that you now feel a little more clued up on what you can expect. For more guidance on pregnancy, birth, and beyond, head to the butterbean platform.

Remember, our YouTube channel and Instagram pages are both great resources of free information and support.

If you'd like to hear fascinating birth stories told by real women, head over to our podcast page 'Real Birth Stories'.