Cervix Dilation - The 3 stages of labour

The 3 stages of labour

There are three stages of labour - latent, active and delivery. During labour a woman's cervix dilates to 10cm, to allow the baby's head to pass through the vagina.

If your cervix is dilated with regular, painful contractions, you are in active labour and getting closer to delivering your baby.


Stage 1 - Latent

In this stage, contractions are not yet strong or regular. The cervix is softening, and shortening as it prepares for the main event.

The cervix dilating is the bottom opening of the uterus drawing up and opening wider to make room for the baby.

The time it takes for the cervix to soften and dilate will vary for every woman, and can take longer during your first pregnancy.  The first stage of labour ends when a woman’s cervix is fully dilated to 10 cm and fully effaced.


Stage 2 - Active 

The second stage of labour is from when you are fully dilated, until the birth of your baby.

During this time a woman's cervix might be fully dilated, but the baby will need to move down the birth canal towards the entrance of the vagina.

This stage can last for minutes or hours. You will be encouraged to move into different positions to help progress the birth, and be more comfortable.

When your baby's head is nearly ready to be born you will be encouraged to stop pushing, and to take smaller breaths to help your baby's head to be born slowly and give time for the perineum muscles to stretch.


Stage 3 - Delivery

The third stage of labour happens when your baby is born, your womb contracts and you deliver the placenta. 

This can happen naturally, or you/or your healthcare provider might choose for this to be managed via an injection of oxytocin into your thigh.


The NHS website contains full information about the 3 stages of labour, and what to expect during birth.


Teas to support every stage of pregnancy


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