The Third Stage of Labour

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The placenta

The third stage of labour is when the placenta – which is sometimes called the ‘afterbirth’, is delivered. Your placenta is an important part of your birth journey. Take time to think through your options of how to birth it and what is important to you. You can write your wishes on a personalised care plan and discuss them with your midwife before you give birth.

Natural delivery

After birth, if you wish, your baby will be placed skin-to-skin with you. At birth, the blood that belongs to your baby is still in the placenta. If the umbilical cord is left to pulsate it will transfer that blood, oxygen, and stem cells to your baby to help them adjust to life outside the womb.

This means increased iron levels, even until 6 months old, and increased stem cells which help with your baby’s growth and immune system.

Once the umbilical cord has stopped pulsating you will push the placenta out yourself. The cord can then be clamped and cut by either a birth partner, yourself, or your midwife. This whole process can take up to an hour, but it may be much quicker. Your midwife will guide you through it, and you can enjoy time with your baby while you wait.

Delivery assisted with the use of a drug

A drug called oxytocin is injected into your thigh or your arm as you give birth. This can shorten the time it takes for your placenta to be delivered. If you wish, your baby can be placed skin to skin whilst the cord is left to pulse for about 1-5 minutes before being clamped and then cut. If you would like to leave the cord to pulsate for longer, you can request this, as the benefits described in the natural delivery above can still be achieved. . Your midwife will wait until there are signs that your placenta has separated from the womb and then they will deliver the placenta by guiding it out gently using the cord.
Delivering your placenta with the help of oxytocin will be discussed with you during your pregnancy if it’s thought that you might have a risk of bleeding heavily after birth or if you’ve experienced a complicated birth.

If the placenta takes more than an hour to deliver naturally, you can choose to have the oxytocin injection this can have some side effects such as feeling sick or vomiting.

Just like labour, plans for delivering your placenta can change. Your birth may be different to how you planned or you might change your mind. Rest assured, your care providers will guide you through all the available options so you can choose what is right for you and your baby.

More Information

Explanation point

TermDescription
PlacentaThe placenta is a flat circular-shaped organ that provides oxygen and nutrients to your growing baby, it is also responsible for removing waste substances that are no longer needed. The placenta grows attached to the wall of the uterus and is joined to the baby by the umbilical cord.
Umbilical cord The umbilical cord is a tube-like structure that connects your baby to you via the placenta.
Immune systemThe immune system is a complex system within the body that defends us from disease.
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