The third stage of labor and placenta delivery: what you should know


Your baby’s here! You can’t believe it. He’s perfect. Ten fingers, ten toes, the cutest nose you’ve ever seen. Now all you want is to hold him (and sleep off the exhaustion from your labor). But they’re telling you you’re not done. What? There’s a third stage of labor?

Regain your focus, ladies, because you’re not done yet. You have another delivery ahead of you: the placenta. Most women deliver the placenta about fifteen minutes after birth, but some deliveries can take up to an hour. Haven’t had any contractions? They’re coming. They won’t be as bad as labor contractions, but you should begin to feel them a few minutes after giving birth.

These post-delivery contractions may feel like small cramps, but they’re actually very important. They ensure that the placenta has separated itself from the uterus. Once you’ve delivered the placenta and the water bags (leftover from when your water broke), the doctor will check to make sure nothing was left behind. If everything came out, your doctor will then make sure you’re still contracting, as this is the body’s way of making sure the internal bleeding stops.

Because the placenta was the source on which your baby thrived while in the womb, some parents choose to keep it after the birth (some plant it in their backyards while others cook placenta, eat placenta and even make placenta crafts). If you have plans for your placenta, discuss them beforehand with the doctors and nurses (or midwife, if you’re having your baby at home or a birthing center), so there is no confusion once you deliver.

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