During labour, the muscles of the uterus contract and shorten, thereby opening and pulling up your cervix into the lower part of the uterus. This action pushes the baby further down in to your pelvis. At the same time baby’s head is pushing on your cervix and together these complex actions work to facilitate dilatation (the widening of the cervix) and the birth of your baby.
There are Three Stages of Labour
The first stage is divided into three phases. The first phase is the early or latent phase of labour. It’s also commonly described as pre-labour. During this phase your cervix begins to soften, move forward and efface (thin out).
Next is the active phase – when your cervix is dilating. Your contractions become more intense, more frequent and last longer.
The final phase in the first stage of labour is transition. At this point your cervix dilates from 8-10 centimetres and your contractions are generally coming every 2-3 minutes and are lasting 60-90 seconds.
The second stage of labour is the pushing phase and birth of your baby. You are now dilated to 10 centimetres. This is the stage of labour where you push your baby down the birth canal and you meet at last! This phase is really hard work and can take up to several hours.
The third stage of labour is the birth of the placenta. This stage can take 5-15 minutes and occasionally longer.
Most women are fertile two weeks before their period starts. However, breastfeeding can delay the return of periods, making it hard for women to know with any confidence when their ‘fertile window’ may be. This is why some women conceive again before their periods have come back.
An epidural is an anaesthetic procedure, where a local anaesthetic is injected into the epidural space near the spinal cord. An epidural anaesthetic numbs the nerves so pain cannot be felt in certain areas of the body.
An epidural during labour helps to block pain signals from contractions. If birth intervention is needed, e.g., caesarean or forceps, an epidural is a common form of anaesthetic.