If this is your first baby you may get backache and bouts of painful contractions that last for hours, or even days, before proper labour begins. This is called the latent phase of labour.

You may be convinced that your baby is on his way only to find that all the signs wear off again or your midwife says your cervix is still closed when it's checked.

If you can, stay at home during the latent phase as you're more likely to feel comfortable there. Try to keep active to take your mind off the discomfort.

A warm bath, the recommended dose of paracetamol or a back massage from your partner may help. 

Rest as much as you can between contractions and don't forget to eat. You'll need to keep your energy up for when labour starts properly.

THE FIRST STAGE

This is usually the longest stage and, with a first baby, it can last between ten and 18 hours, although some first stages are longer or shorter than this.

The first stage is when contractions make your cervix (the ring of muscle at the bottom of your womb) gradually opens up, or dilates, until it is about ten centimetres across

THE SECOND STAGE

The second stage starts when your cervix is fully open. This is the part of labour where you will be actively working to help the baby move through your vagina.

The muscles of your womb will be tightening and loosening to push the baby down and out.  You will help the contractions by pushing the baby out.

The second stage can last from around 30 minutes to a couple of hours for first babies and ends with the birth of your baby.

THE THIRD STAGE

After your baby is born, your womb contracts some more, causing the placenta to come out through the vagina.

You will be offered an injection after the birth of your baby that causes the placenta to come away from the wall of your womb quickly, allowing the midwife to deliver it.

You can also choose to have a 'passive' or natural delivery of the placenta (sometimes referred to as ‘physiological third stage’),

where you push it out once it has separated from the wall of the womb without an injection or other intervention.

This can take between ten minutes to an hour after the birth of your baby.

Also following these two links may help.

.There is lots of information on NHS INFORM and a video can be seen on NHS CHOICES

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