Lisa Soster 16:24 p.m., October 19, 2023, modified at 16:28 p.m., October 19, 2023

Childbirth is a cocktail of emotions that requires some key information before the arrival of D-Day in order to be well prepared. How does labor begin? How long does it last? What are the solutions to alleviate the pain? Here's what you need to know before your baby comes into the world.


When you reach the end of your pregnancy and have contractions, it is sometimes difficult to tell the difference between the onset of labour and a "false alarm". Here are the different stages of childbirth and the solutions to alleviate the pain according to the "Santé magazine" and the webzine "Maman pour la vie".

What are the stages of childbirth?

Throughout pregnancy, the cervix is described as thick and closed. In order for the baby to come into the world, the cervix must first thin, it is said to "fade away", and then it opens.

When this first stage begins, the contractions are painful, close together and intensify. When this is the case, it is time to contact the professional who follows you or to go directly to the maternity ward. At this stage, the cervix opens between three and five centimeters. These first few centimetres are often the slowest, especially if it is a first delivery. In general, it takes an hour for a dilation of one centimeter.

Once the cervix is dilated to five centimeters, labor accelerates and contractions become even more intense. There is now usually two centimetres of dilation per hour. This dilation phase lasts an average of eight hours if you have never given birth and about four hours if you have never given birth. The cervix must be open to ten centimeters to be "fully dilated". At this point, it is almost time for "expulsion".

Midwife Anna Roy tells you everything about pregnancy, childbirth, the first months with baby, from breastfeeding to postpartum depression, in the podcast "Sage-Meuf" to listen here

When the baby's head is engaged in the pelvis, the push can begin. Once the baby's head is out, the midwife releases the baby's shoulder and slides the baby's body outwards. Your child is officially born!

But the "work" isn't quite done. A few minutes later, small contractions reappear. This is "deliverance", i.e. the expulsion of the placenta. The midwife then gently pulls on the umbilical cord and the placenta comes out of the belly.

>> Read also: Maternity leave: how long and how to benefit from the benefits?

With or without an epidural?

Today, more than 82% of women use epidurals, according to a survey by Santé publique France published in 2021.

An epidural is an anesthesia that relieves pain locally. During childbirth, it puts the lower body to sleep and thus relieves contractions through the use of a catheter inserted into the lumbar spine. The anesthetic products are administered through this catheter and the dose can be directly controlled by the mother through a pump.

The pain of contractions is relieved about fifteen minutes after the installation. The epidural allows some women to approach childbirth in a more serene way. It also limits fatigue during this intense effort where energy expenditure is high and is therefore rather useful for fragile mothers and fetuses.

Some women choose to give birth in a "physiological" way, i.e. without the use of an epidural. More and more women want to give birth in a less medicalized environment, or even at home. Without anesthesia, these women say they feel freer to take the positions of their choice. As their legs are not asleep, they can stand up and thus facilitate the baby's descent into the pelvis, so labour is generally faster. For some women, it is necessary to feel the contractions and thus have control over their delivery. The urge to push is inevitable and feeling the baby's head usually allows for more effective pushing.

In order to relieve the pain associated with childbirth without an epidural, specialists recommend lower back massages by the companion, walking or hot baths. Breathing also plays an important role in pain management. Learning to manage your breath by practicing prenatal yoga or sophrology, for example, can be good ways to alleviate the pain of childbirth.

>> Read also: "The perineum, we're all concerned": midwife Anna Roy's advice for good rehabilitation