Third stage of labour


You've got your baby and, frankly, everything else will seem completely insignificant. But we've started so we'll finish. The third stage of labour is when you deliver the placenta - the organ that's been busying away in your uterus, giving your baby oxygen and nutrients and taking out the trash (sort of an internal housekeeper).

Light contractions will help the placenta break away from the uterine wall and, as it does so, the blood vessels inside the uterus will seal.

After all your recent exertions, you may still need to push a few more times and the midwife might apply pressure to your abdomen while keeping hold of the umbilical chord, but compared to what's gone before this is usually a doddle.

Depending on your circumstances, you can choose between expectant or active management of this third stage. 

Expectant management

This is where the whole process takes place completely naturally (also called a 'physiological' third stage). This can take between 15 minutes to an hour and the umbilical cord will be only be clamped and cut once the placenta has been delivered. 

Active management

This is where you are given an oxytocin hormone injection at the time of birth to help the uterus contract and minimise blood loss. The umbilical chord is clamped and cut soon after the birth.

You may chose either, so have your wishes noted or include them in your birth plan. But depending on how you're doing, and what medication you have received during labour, you may have to have active management as there are some situations where a physiological third stage is considered unsafe.

Regardless of which option you choose, if you are planning to breastfeed it's a great idea to give it a go as soon as possible, as doing so will help your uterus contract. We told you Mother Nature was clever.

What Mumsnetters say about the third stage of labour

  • I had a physiological third stage so wanted loads of skin-on-skin time, a first feed and the cord not to be cut until it had stopped pulsating. There was no rush for the placenta to be delivered... until the afterpains kicked in. Then it felt like I was having another baby! Sweetkitty
  • I was too busy staring in awe at my gorgeous daughter to notice this bit, to be honest! TillyScoutsmum


Last updated: over 1 year ago