When you've got your baby in your arms this stage often gets neglected, but it begins with the birth of the baby and ends with the birth of the placenta. It generally takes less than an hour, though it can go on longer without complications for some women.
The placenta will detach from the uterine wall and be expelled through the vagina or birth canal. Your practitioner will be able to tell that your placenta is ready to be born either by a small gush of blood or a lengthening of the cord.
The third stage is fairly anticlimactic for most. While you're holding your baby the doctor or midwife may remind you to push gently to help expel the placenta. My midwife with my second baby told me, "Small pushes, this is easy, no bones for this one!" I laughed and all was said and done.
Sometimes the placenta is delayed. Nursing your baby will help stimulate contractions to help bring the placenta, because it will release oxytocin (hormone) into your body. Also coughing, sneezing and laughing can be used as techniques to help you expel the placenta.
What You Might Be Feeling
- Contractions that are very manageable
- Joy, relief, a mixture of emotions
What Your Partner Can Do
- Hold the baby if mom can't
- Remind her of relaxation and breathing techniques if need be
Some women and their families wish to see or save the placenta. Your practitioner can give you a quick tour of this amazing organ that nourished baby for so long. In a home birth it may be your responsibility to dispose of the placenta. Be sure to ask.
Planting the placenta is seen as a ritual for some families. You need to dig a deep hole, at least 16 inches deep and bury the placenta. You must wait a year before trying to plant a tree or anything over it because it will be too rich and actually kill the plant.
Photo © Robin Elise Weiss