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Information on the Third Stage of Labour


mom with her newborn baby


In the third stage of labour the uterus contracts, and the placenta completes its separation from the wall of the uterus and is birthed.

This stage can take five to 30 minutes or longer.

During this time you may experience cramps and be asked to push out the placenta. At this stage many mothers feel relief, gratitude and joy, while other don't have any particular feelings. You may be exhausted, hungry and thirsty – some women also feel shaky and cold. You'll also likely be focused on your newly born baby and wanting confirmation that he or she is healthy.


Diagram - Third Stage Placenta Expulsion

What to Expect During Third Stage Labour

  • The umbilical cord is cut and clamped after the baby is born.
  • Healthcare provider takes an Apgar score to check baby’s overall health.
  • Baby’s placenta separates from the wall of the uterus and is pushed out through the vagina.
  • Uterus rises in the abdomen and takes on a grapefruit shape and size. 
  • A gush of blood often comes out with or before the placenta is birthed.
  • Some mothers are given an injection to stimulate contractions of the uterus and control bleeding.
  • Tears or episiotomy may be frozen and stitched.

Did you know? An Apgar test is a simple and easy way to measure how healthy a baby is. The test rates five areas: the baby’s heart rate, breathing, muscle tone, reflexes, and skin colour. The rating is a number out of a total of 10 called the Apgar score. Most babies score an Apgar between 7 and 10.

Tips for you and your support person

  • Cuddle with your baby on your chest. 
  • Partners who want to cut the umbilical cord are given scissors and directed where to cut. 
  • Bring your baby to your breast to begin breastfeeding. Some will suck right away; others will show little interest at first.
  • Warm blankets will be placed over you and your baby.
  • If asked, gently push out the placenta.
  • Talk to your baby. He or she already recognizes your voice.

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Last Updated: August 10, 2013