The process of childbirth is usually divided into three stages.
The first stage of childbirth is when the labour pains start appearing.
This stage begins when real contractions start and continues till the cervix is completely dilated to about 10 cm. It can last approximately 8-15 hours. If you are having your first child, the duration of this stage maybe longer.
This is the longest stage of labour and usually the most arduous. This is when you need your spouse or your support person (your mother, for example) the most and they need their energy and patience.
Ask your doctor beforehand, when they want you to call them and come to the hospital. The typical rule of thumb is to try and stay at home in the very early stages of labour. But call the doctor or go to the hospital once the contractions start lasting about 45-60 seconds and start coming in 3-5 minutes intervals. And especially if they keep getting stronger, lasting longer and occurring sooner. Check with your doctor beforehand on when you should call them.
This stage starts when your cervix is completely dilated and ends with the delivery of your baby. This stage can last anywhere from less than an hour to to 2 hours.
Now that your cervix has dilated, its time to PUSH!! Your baby will also be helping you by getting into the right position to come out. You will feel this pressure in your rectum and will feel like pushing naturally (similar to when you feel like passing a bowel movement).
Find a position that works best for you during this stage. As you continue to push, the Kegel exercises you did will have been very useful. Eventually your baby's head will appear (called crowning) and at this point, the doctor will probably tell you not to push any more or to do so gently. Eventually the baby will come out completely. At this point most of the hard work is over. You will feel exhausted but euphoric.
After the birth of your baby, your body will expel your placenta and umbilical cord. This stage is also called afterbirth. This is the shortest stage. It usually lasts up to a half hour.
Your body will start some smaller contractions to push out the placenta. The doctor might press your uterus gently to expel your placenta or might pull your umbilical cord gently. Sometimes medication maybe used to speed up this process. Once the placenta is expelled, the doctors may work to stitch up any tears. And at this point, you can spend time with your baby and start breastfeeding.