the main event:
what happens during childbirth

pregnant mum-to-be admires her baby bump

Pregnancy is an exciting time, but by the end you simply can’t wait to see your bump become baby. You just have to get through childbirth first! Giving birth is different for every woman and there’s nothing that can really prepare you for it. There are, however, three stages that never change.

the signs of labour

There are different ways your body gets ready. You might have a 'show' – when the mucus-like plug that blocks the cervix comes out. Or your waters might break – it isn’t always as dramatic as in the films. It might come in a big gush or it could feel like you’ve wet yourself. Your baby should be born within the next 24 hours. Or you’ll start with contractions. At first these might feel like mild period pains. Once they’re strong and frequent (around 20 minutes apart), call your midwife.

labour stage one

Contractions are the first stage of childbirth. The power of your contractions helps to open your cervix and prepare you to push your baby out. Your cervix will dilate to 10cm. Your midwife will be there to monitor things and let you know when it’s time to push. This stage can last a long time, so if you're making a baby birth video, your birth partner will no doubt press pause for most of this!

labour stage two

Now that you're fully dilated, you’re ready to give birth! Your midwife will guide you to breathe and push. Panting between pushes can help stop vaginal tearing.

You need to start pushing really hard when baby is ready to come – it will feel a bit like going to the toilet. The head is usually the hardest bit to push through. Once baby is ‘crowning’ (their head is coming out), the midwife might ask you to reach down and feel your little one’s head.

labour stage three

Once your baby is born you still have one more job – to deliver the placenta. Fortunately this isn’t as hard as childbirth! Your womb will naturally keep contracting to push it out. You might be given a syntometrine injection to speed things up. Your midwife will then check that none of the placenta has been left behind, and any cuts or tears will be stitched up.

welcoming baby

Once baby is in the world, the umbilical cord will be cut and they will be given a series of tests to check their heart rate, breathing, colour, muscle tone and reflexes. Finally, they’ll be weighed and wiped and you’ll be able to enjoy your first cuddle with your little bundle of joy. If you've been watching videos or reading about birth to prepare yourself, you'll know how this magical moment makes all of the previous hard work so worthwhile.

Congratulations, you're now a parent!