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  • Writer's pictureMicah

The Stages of Labor: A Doula's Insight


woman in labor knocked up movie

Childbirth is a journey like no other, a blend of excitement, anticipation, and the unknown. As both a doula and a mother who has experienced the breathtaking beauty of birth, I stand in awe of the human body's capacity to create and bring life into the world. In this blog, we'll walk through the stages of childbirth, offering insight for each one, helping you feel more prepared for your big day!


Stage 1: Early Labor and Active Labor (getting from 0 -10cm)

The journey into motherhood starts with early labor, a phase marked by anticipation and those subtle yet purposeful contractions. These early contractions serve as the prelude to the magnificent act of childbirth, gently nudging your cervix to efface and dilate, slowly but surely, in preparation for the grand performance ahead.

Early labor is a moment of transition, both physical and emotional. As the contractions ebb and flow, your body is silently, steadily, and quite artfully preparing to welcome your little one into the world. It's a time when anticipation works with serenity, and the world seems to pause just for you. It's an excellent moment to take a breath, to savor the calm before the beautiful storm, and to connect with your birth team - make a quick call to your doula and your provider to let them know what's going on.

Contractions in early labor are irregular - anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes apart, lasting for about a minute each time. Your cervix will begin dilating from 0-6cm and effacing. Early labor can last hours to days...stay in contact with your doula and your provider throughout this stage.

Active labor follows, and here, things start to change. The contractions gain strength and intensity, setting a brisk pace. The stage is now firmly set for your baby's grand entrance. Your cervix, once hesitant, now opens more rapidly, revealing the progress that brings your baby closer to your embrace.

It's in active labor that you might feel the urge to breathe deeply, to focus on your body's rhythm, and to find comfort in movement. The supportive surroundings, from the gentle guidance of your doula to the reassuring presence of your partner, play an essential role in keeping the atmosphere serene and encouraging.

This is the time to engage those breathing techniques you've practiced, to sway with the contractions, and to find solace in every surge. As your body diligently works to usher your baby into the world, it's the emotional support, the compassionate understanding, and the unwavering encouragement that help you navigate this transformative phase.

Contractions during active labor are about 3 minutes apart, losing for 45-60 seconds each time. Your cervix will go from 6cm to 10cm and will become fully effaced. This is typically the time to start heading to the hospital or birth center, if that's your planned birth location. Active labor can last up to 8 hours.

In the active labor stage, you're not just a passenger on this remarkable journey; you're an active participant, and you're doing an incredible job. Trust in the magic of your body, lean on your birth team, and let the journey of childbirth continue


Stage 2: Pushing and Birth (here comes baby!)

Stage 2 marks the profound moment of your baby's birth. Your cervix is now fully dilated, and an unmistakable urge to push arises. With your support team close at hand, including your partner, doula, and a skilled midwife/OB, you'll find the strength and determination to guide your baby into the world.

This stage can be intense, as you work with your body to bring your baby into your loving embrace. It's a testament to your inner fortitude and the deep well of love and anticipation that has fueled your journey. Rely on your instincts and all the things you learned in your childbirth education classes to help you through this stage.

Contractions during the pushing phase come about every 1 minute, lasting for about 1 minute. The pushing stage can last anywhere from a few minutes to several hours.

Every birth story is as unique as the individuals involved.As you take the central role in this pivotal moment, remember that the love and anticipation you've carried with you throughout this journey now transform into an incredible force. This force propels you and your baby toward that cherished moment of meeting, marking the beginning of a beautiful shared adventure.

This is a time to celebrate the incredible strength, love, and resilience within you. The arrival of your baby is a testament to the extraordinary power of life and the awe-inspiring journey you've undertaken.


Stage 3: Placental Delivery

After your baby's arrival, there's one last essential act: the delivery of the placenta. It's a phase that might be less heralded but is no less crucial in the process of childbirth. As your focus shifts to your new baby, your body quietly continues its work.

A series of gentle contractions signals the placenta's separation from the uterine wall, and with a mild, reassuring push, it is delivered. This phase is pivotal, not just because it signals the conclusion of the birthing process, but also because it plays a vital role in your postpartum well-being.

Ensuring the complete removal of the placenta is vital to prevent bleeding and support a healthy recovery. Your healthcare provider will carefully inspect the placenta to confirm its integrity and that no parts remain inside. It's a meticulous process that guarantees your safety and well-being.

And here's the fun part - you can ask to see the placenta! It's a unique and awe-inspiring sight, a tangible reminder of the miraculous journey you've just completed. Many parents find it fascinating and take the opportunity to explore this remarkable organ. After all, it played a pivotal role in nurturing your baby throughout pregnancy.

So, as your birth team focuses on this final act, consider taking a moment to witness the placenta, an unsung hero of the birthing process. Its delivery marks the conclusion of your baby's journey from the womb to your arms, and it's a moment worth cherishing.

Placenta delivery usually happens within 30 minutes after delivery. Your provider will help you through this stage, which involves 1 or 2 final pushes.


Childbirth is a journey through stages, each filled with its own wonders and challenges. While understanding these stages and their typical durations is essential, remember that every birth story is unique.


As you embark on your own journey, trust in the science of birth, lean on the emotional support of your doula, and treasure every moment of this incredible adventure.


Feel free to share your thoughts, experiences, or any insights you'd like to add in the comments below. How did your journey through these stages of childbirth unfold? Let's continue the conversation and celebrate the beauty of birth together.


Micah is a birth doula, birth photographer, and yoga instructor based in Saginaw, TX

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