The First Stage – Phase Three

During the third part of the longest stage of labor, your cervix dilates fully to 10 centimeters, usually quickly. Your contractions are powerful and effective at this point, making this phase relatively short. They may be 2-3 minutes apart and last for up to a minute and a half, although sometimes they become so close and last so long that they feel as though they never completely disappear. When this happens, you may barely have time for a breath before another contraction starts coming on. It’s still not too late to ask for certain pain medications, although it is for some. Ask your doctor, midwife or nurse what options are still available and safe, if you decide you need pain relief.


Physically, you may feel exhausted and down-right worn out, especially if you’ve been in labor for a long time. You may feel a lot of lower back and rectal pressure, as your baby’s head applies pressure on the perineum and rectal area. This pressure may cause you to have a strong urge to push, which you need to tell the nurse, because you may very well be fully-dilated and ready for your baby to come out. Hold back, though until you’re told that you are in fact fully-dilated, because pushing before it’s time can cause you to tear or swell, making delivery more difficult. Try panting or blowing through contractions to keep from pushing.

Bleeding from your vagina may become heavier as more capillaries in your cervix rupture and your legs may tremble uncontrollably, feel cold and crampy at this point. You may feel shaky and shiver all over now, which is normal. You may experience nausea, as well as vomiting and chills one minute, but sweat the next (hot flashes).

Women typically go through several emotions during this phase and it’s not uncommon to have mood swings, since this is the most emotionally challenging part of labor. You may experience increased irritability and feel overwhelmed, as well as panicked, crying easily. Lots of encouragement is needed now from the support person or partner. Thankfully, this phase of labor is usually very brief.

Keep changing positions frequently, if you are able. Continue doing your breathing exercises and concentrate on getting through one contraction at a time. Distraction at this point, such as t.v. or the radio may be irritating as you try to concentrate. Soothing music may be a relaxing alternative. A cool washcloth on your forehead may be helpful, as well as continuing to suck on ice chips or sipping on water.

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