What does the third stage of labour feel like?

You've had your baby, so the hard work's done. But you still have the third stage of labour to get through! Our midwife explains what’s next…

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You have your baby, now there’s just the placenta left!

It seems like a woman’s work is never done, so while you’re trying to cuddle and get to know your baby, you’ll still have a bit more work to do delivering the placenta. There are two ways to do this, either active or natural

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Get the midwife to do it

if you’ve chosen what’s called ‘active management’, you’ll have been given a hormone injection as your baby’s shoulders are being delivered. This makes your uterus contract quickly after the birth.

When your baby is born, the cord will quickly be clamped and cut and the placenta will be delivered by the midwife gently pulling on the umbilical cord. Whether the midwife pulls on the cord to expel the placenta or you push it out yourself, it doesn’t hurt. The placenta can be the size of a dinner plate but is soft and feels like you’re passing a large clot of period.

Do it yourself

If you’d prefer to do this bit naturally, there’s no need for the injection. Your baby will stay attached to the cord for longer, until you feel the contraction ready to deliver your placenta. This can take around an hour. You probably won’t be paying too much attention at this stage, as you’ll be too busy gazing at your baby, so it might feel a bit uncomfortable, but no more than that.

4 ways to manage the pain:

1.  Remember to breathe


Your body relaxes every time you exhale, so as each contraction builds up, focus on doing a long outward breath.

2. Don’t grimace

If your face is relaxed, your body will be too.

3. Use water

Water is an amazing form of pain relief, so consider a birthing pool or get into the bath.

4. Try hypnobirthing

It teaches you relaxation, visualisation and breathing techniques, and re-educates you not to expect labour to be painful.

Mums’ stories

“I enjoyed my labour. Yes, it hurt, but it was exciting and I felt well supported. I never felt frightened, which I’m sure must make it all seem worse. Once the contractions stop, it’s really hard to remember what they ever felt like.”

Alison Bennett, 36, from Hampshire, mum to Tom, 2, and Grace, 4 months

“It was the oddest sensation to feel his head move out a bit and then slide back in. I remember shouting at the midwife ‘He’s going back in again!’.”

Nina Gasgoine, 19, from Co Durham, mum to Joshua, 3 weeks

“Birth is like having a poo! I felt very relieved to finally offload.”

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Eileen Teo, 31, from Lichfield, mum to Kieren

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