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Stages of labour – what to do and when!

If labour seems a bit baffling then check out our guide on what happens and when (well most of time time!). 

If you’ve not given birth before then the prospect of labour can seem daunting – but our bodies are designed to give birth. The best way to manage labour is to relax, stop thinking and to go with your body’s natural urges. I call this coming into the ‘birth zone” allowing yourself to focus completely on your breath – lengthening the exhale, quietening the mind and staying upright as long as you can. And if you’re still not sure then book into one of my pregnancy yoga courses and it will all seem pretty simple – honest!

  • Please remember this is a general guide 🙂

Stages: 1st stage – baby preparing for birth

2nd stage – baby moving through birth canal

3rd stage – delivery of placenta


Pre-labour – the weeks/days before birth


Intuitive feelings and recognition of subtle changes in the body

Need additional sleep/rest/meditation

To do – ensure you have enough rest, check your hospital bag is packed and ready, emergency phone numbers are posted on the fridge.


Early labour

Behaviour which can be exhibited by mum:




Twinges and mild, inconsistent contractions

Rupture of membranes (about 20 per cent of women)

Mucous discharge (plug)

Walks around

Makes conversation

Makes eye contact

Unable to sleep

Eats and drinks as usual

Needs active companionship

To do – run a warm bath. Partner can give a massage (Two drops of lavender or Jasmine oils to six drops of sweet almond oil). Rest/relaxation/meditation and visualisations.


Established labour

Sits and rests between contractions

Avoids conversation and eye contact

Head rests on arms or pillow

Needs to rest her legs and begins to sink towards the floor

More comfortable upright (not always)

Thirsty, but loses appetite for food

Finds own comfortable position

Needs companionship that is unobtrusive and non-disruptive

Develops own breathing pattern

Changes her behaviour only when necessary

To do – normal/light activities. Adopt positions for comfort. Upright positions and movement – rocking and pelvic rock. Rest. Ensure adequate fluids, eat if hungry and sleep if tired. Release tensions with sighing – use voice and play music. Heat – cold – bath – shower.

Try to focus on the joy of the experience – this is truly one of life’s great experiences and try not to lose sight of that – and at the end of this you will have a baby.

LABOUR AID: (from Sheila Kitzinger’s book – Homebirth)
¼ water

1/3 honey

½ teaspoon sea salt

¼ baking powder

2 crushed calcium tablets

drink juice/glucose tablets

Partner’s role –encourage and offer positive support, help in positions – physical support. Help in movement/rocking. Touch, massage, pressure for comfort, pain relief. Assist in hot packs/shower. Encourage breathing/vocalising/sighing. Time contractions.

Between contractions – cool sponge the face, neck and hands. Provide drinks (juice/energy drinks and water) and encourage rest.



Shaking and vomiting

Sudden change in behaviour

Personality changes – irrational comments

Feels out of control, unable to manage

Requests drugs

Restless, needs to move, tries different comfort measures

Noise – yelling even screaming

Rupture of membranes

To do: Positions for comfort – urge to push. Movement – vocalize and rest

Partner’s role: Help partner change position and to counter the urge to push
Second stage

Second wind – spurt of energy

Feels calmer

Sense of purpose reappears

Intensely introverted

Grips and needs physical support

Drops towards the floor – bends and opens knees

Sounds change – grunts and pushing noises

Sudden need to empty bowels

Rupture of membranes (if not already broken)

To do: Positions for comfort/progress – respond to the urge to push and let go – release as you push. Watch in mirror if you wish – panting as head crowns may assist.

Partner’s role: – encourage and support. Help in positions, encourage partner to let go and “let the baby come”, cool sponge, drink, see your baby’s birth together.




Third stage

Attention solely on baby

Elation – feelings of surprise, satisfaction, amazement

Sits upright to see her baby

Wants to pick baby up – fondles baby first and gathers to the breast – this is wonderful as you can enjoy what is called the “first gaze” where your baby will look directly into your eyes and you will both be flooded with copious amounts of the love hormone, Oxytocin.

So now you are primed and ready – I’d love to hear about your birth experience! Please email me or comment below. And you can book into the next pregnancy yoga course here.