There are three stages of labor.
Dilation contractions help your cervix to thin and begin to open, shorten and thin (effacement). This allows the baby to move into the birth canal. The first stage is the longest of the three stages.
As your cervix begins to open, you might notice a clear, pink or slightly bloody discharge from your vagina. This is likely the mucus plug that blocks the cervical opening during pregnancy. During active labor, your cervix will dilate from 6 cm to 10 cm. Your contractions will become stronger, closer together and regular. As your labor progresses, your bag of waters may break, causing a gush of fluid. After the bag of waters breaks, you can expect your contractions to speed up. You may feel tired, frustrated or irritated. You may feel sweaty, sick to your stomach, shaky, hot or cold.
The second stage of labor begins when the cervix is completely dilated (open), and ends with the birth of your baby. Contractions push the baby down the birth canal, and you may feel intense pressure, similar to an urge to have a bowel movement. You might be asked to push more gently . Slowing down gives your vaginal tissues time to stretch rather than tear. After your baby's head is delivered, the rest of the baby's body will follow shortly. His or her airway will be cleared if necessary. Your health care provider or labor coach will then cut the umbilical cord.
Contractions begin 5 to 10 minutes after the baby is delivered. The woman may have chills or feel shaky. It takes less than 30 minutes for the placenta to exit the vagina. The provider might pull gently on the umbilical cord and massage the uterus to help the placenta come out. The third stage begins after your baby is born and finishes when the placenta and membranes have been delivered.