Your third stage of labour explained

MadeForMums' midwife explains what to expect in the final stage of labour and the delivery of the placenta


Stage Three – the delivery of the placenta and the clamping of the cord

Hold on, you’re thinking, if I’ve had the baby, surely that’s the end of it! What’s the third stage? But a couple more things need to happen before the whole giving birth experience is over. The third stage is the time from your baby’s birth until the delivery of the placenta and membranes (the bag that held the water and your baby). If your labour has been straightforward, you might want to complete the process naturally and keep the baby’s cord attached until it stops pulsating.


When the pulsating (that’s just the blood still flowing through it) has stopped, the umbilical cord can be clamped and the placenta separates naturally.

If you do it naturally:

  • You just wait for the contraction that naturally pushes the placenta and membranes out of your body.
  • It will happen after the baby’s cord has stopped pulsating and been clamped and cut.
  • You will feel a period-type pain before the placenta plops out.
  • It can take up to an hour.

Other women prefer an ‘active’ third stage. An oxytocic drug is injected into your outer thigh as the baby is born, which makes the uterus contract, which then expels the placenta.

If it’s managed:

  • You’ll have an injection of an ‘oxytocic’ drug into your thigh that forces the uterus to contract.
  • Everything will be over in 5 minutes.
  • The drug may make you a little sick afterwards.


A mum’s point of view: “The placenta slid out.”

“Once my baby was out, the contractions stopped. I got a shock when I suddenly got one more, and the midwife explained that it was my womb contracting as the placenta came away from the uterus. Five minutes later, it slid out,” said Annie Daly, 33, from Hove, mum to Megan, 3 weeks.

Anne’s top tip:

“Even if your partner doesn’t fancy cutting the cord, get the midwife to ask them again at the time, as they might feel completely different when it comes to it.”

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