Three stages of labour

The process of childbirth (labour) falls roughly into three stages.

  1. Opening of the birth canal by progressive dilation and effacement of the cervix.
  2. The birth of the baby through the birth canal.
  3. The delivery of the afterbirth (Placenta).

During childbirth (labour), your healthcare provider will be using the following terms to describe the process:

Position and Station

The baby’s position (whether facing right or left; head first, or feet or buttocks first) and how far the baby has moved into or through the birth canal.


Thinning of the cervix. As this thinning continues, it is usually accompanied by dilation of the cervix.


Widening of the cervical opening. When the cervix is completely dilated (about 10 cm), the baby can usually pass through and be born. At this point, you may be told to push with each contraction until the baby’s head can be seen.


Opening to the womb (uterus).


Enables the baby to receive nourishment and eliminate waste during pregnancy. It is attached to the uterine wall and connects to the baby by the umbilical cord.