What will labour really be like?

What will labour really be like?

February 2014

You’ve waited nine months or so to meet your baby, and the time is finally here! Welcome to the most memorable day of your whole life. If this is your first pregnancy, it is perfectly normal to feel anxious about the journey to holding your baby.

Eight out of ten women give birth vaginally, and here Project-B’s midwife One Born Every Minute’s Gemma Raby explains the stages of a normal vaginal delivery.


This is your body gearing up for labour, and there are two parts to this – ‘Passive’ and ‘Active’. Your contractions will have started, possibly every 15-30 minutes as they work to open up the neck of your uterus and your body slowly starts to push your baby down so it’s in the correct position to come out. This is the ‘Passive’ stage.

There are two other main signs you are in Stage 1 of labour, these are:

  1. Your waters break – this doesn’t always happen at this stage, but can be a sign. This is the sack of fluid which has surrounded your baby for the last nine months breaking and releasing its fluid. The water should be pale and clear. If it happens to be coloured or smelly, call your midwife or labour ward as this could be a sign that your baby needs urgent attention.  If your waters do break, you should give your midwife or labour ward a call so they know your baby is getting ready to make its appearance!
  2. You may also get a ‘show’ which is the plug of mucus coming away from the neck of your uterus to make way for your baby. 

Your contractions will come in waves and will gradually build up in intensity and frequency.  Our advice is to stay at home until your contractions are coming every 5 minutes or so and lasting for 30-60 seconds – this is the ‘Active’ stage. Once you feel you have reached this point, call your midwife or labour ward so they are ready for you. 

This stage can last around eight hours on average.  Try and stay relaxed during this stage; walking around a little, have a bite to eat, anything to build up your energy for Stage 2.


This stage means your cervix is fully dilated (to around 10 cms) and your body is ready to push your baby down the birth canal and into the big wide world!  You may well feel the pressure of your baby’s head low down in your pelvis, and then experience the urge to ‘bear down’.  This is the time to listen to what your body is telling you.  As you feel the urge to push, your midwife will help you focus your energy to gradually push baby through your pelvis.

You may feel a stinging sensation as your vagina stretches around baby’s head.  Once your midwife sees baby’s head, she is likely to tell you to stop pushing so that your baby can be born gently and slowly.


You’ve done it!  Your baby is in your arms!  But there is a final stage to labour, which is delivery the placenta and empty water bag.  Once baby has arrived, the placenta drops down to the bottom of the uterus and out through the vagina.  You can opt to have an injection which speeds up this process, but this is purely your choice, and upright positions, skin to skin contact and starting to breastfeed can all help stimulate this to happen naturally.

Once this has happened, your midwife will clear everything away, and help you and your new baby feel comfortable.  Then it’s time for a cup of tea, and rest, and lots of cuddles with your precious arrival.

For more advice and information on the stages of labour, speak to your midwife, she is there to help you through your pregnancy journey.  We will cover caesarean sections, assisted delivery, induction of labour and pain relief in future blogs.


Good luck everyone!  Love Gemma x