Stages of Labour

Stages of Labour is fully detailed in our eLearning Hub, click HERE to access.

These signs may indicate that you are about to go into labour. However, there is also a chance that everything will stop and you may carry on being pregnant for a while longer.

It is important not to get exhausted in the early part of labour so rest is very important. If you are getting period-like pains, have a warm bath and go to bed for a few hours. Even if you cannot sleep, just relaxing and listening to some music may help you later on.

Pre Labour
  • Pre-labour is the phase in which the cervix thins and softens. If this is your first baby, the process of pre-labour has never happened in your body before and it can take time.
  • Thinning of the cervix and getting into the dialation phase is the HARDEST WORK.
  • This may go on for 1hr, 1 day, 2 days, 3 days...
  • Contractions may be 5-30 mins apart lasting 15 - 30 seconds.
  • They may be mild, feel like cramps, pressure pain.

*Remember to rest and conserve energy during this time.

*Labour usually occurs much faster on the second and subsequent pregnancies: Think about coming to the hospital when the contractions are every 5 minutes.

First Stage
  • This stage is commonly reffered to as 'Active Labour' or 'Established Labour' whereby the cervix has fully thinned and it is beginning to dilate or open. 
  • You will need to dilate from 1cm to 10 cm, wide enough for the baby’s head to pass through.
  • The National Maternity Hospital endeavours to faciliate and support womens needs and choice of care management during this period.
  • The first stage of labour can last anywhere from 6 to 12 hours.
  • It is an endurace process - giving birth naturally requires stamina, determination and mastering the skill of relaxation.
  • Our role is to guide and support you through this period in an indivdualised, safe manner.
Second Stage
  • This is the period between been diagnosed as fully dialated to the delivery of your baby.
  • This stage can last up to 2 hours, particularly if this is your first baby allowing time for the baby to descend down the birth canal.
  • Typically you will experience an overwhelming urge to push and great pressure.
  • The role of a midwife is to support this spontaneaous process guiding and encouraging when necessary.

All women and babies are monitored closely during labour. The way we monitor your baby will depend on you and your baby's individual circumstances. If you have experienced a very straightforward pregnancy and have no issues which we feel might specially challenge the baby; then we will monitor your baby by listening into the baby's heartbeat every 15 minutes using a doptone.  However; where we feel that a baby has a greater chance of being challenged by labour, we will continuously monitor that baby using an electronic monitor called a CTG (cardiotocograph). this can be used externally or internally.

HSE Fetal Heart Rate Monitoring Patient Information Leaflet

Third Stage

This is from the birth of the baby until the placenta has separated from the uterus and is delivered. There are two modes of management:


  • Active management: An injection, Symtometerine / Oxytocin is given just after the birth of your baby. The drugs Synoternine and Oxytocin help the separation of the placenta from the uterine wall. This is to assist with placental separation and to minimize blood loss during the third stage of labour.


  •  Physiological management: If you have a physiological first and second stage of labour and have no risk factors the midwives will endeavour to facilitate this. No injection will be given and time is given for the placenta to delivery naturally with maternal effort.