There are three stages of established labour. The first stage commences when your contractions start to follow a rhythm and come every five to 10 minutes, and last between 30 and 60 seconds.
The first stage is by far the longest and lasts, on average, 10-12 hours with a first baby. The purpose of this stage is to fully open your cervix. With each contraction, your cervix will move further forward into the pelvis and will soften, thin out and eventually open up completely until it is 10cms dilated.
This is when the second stage of labour begins. You will know you have moved into this stage as the contractions will feel much different, and you will get an overwhelming urge to push down hard with every contraction.
This is a very powerful stage of labour and you will be unable to fight the desire to push with each contraction, which will come around every five minutes. However, many women say that these contractions are easier to manage and it is also a much shorter stage that can last, in some cases, minutes. This second stage ends once you have delivered your baby into the world.
The third and final stage of labour is the delivery of the placenta. This is a relatively painless procedure and happens soon after the birth. The placenta detaches from the wall of the uterus, and the uterus then contracts to expel the placenta.
You can allow Mother Nature to manage this stage, or there is an injection available that will assist the process.