Stages of Labor: Placental Stage
The last stage of labor is the placental stage. This is the stage in which you birth the placenta. This tends to be a less exciting and memorable moment of your child’s birth but still a very real and vital part of the labor process.
The placental stage comes in two phases which you will likely be aware of what is going on with your body. The first phase is the separation of the placenta. During this phase, your placenta is detaching from the wall of your uterus. The next stage is the actual expulsion or birthing of the placenta.
Birthing The Placenta
After your baby is birthed and in your arms, your uterus continues to contract. You may barely notice these contractions while others may feel quite intense.
These contractions are your body’s way of closing of the blood vessels that have nourished your baby for the last nine months. Breast feeding helps your body produce the oxytocin that your body requires to continue these important contractions.
You may be asked to push the placenta out. You will use the same muscles and motions of pushing as you did in delivering your child but it will be no where near as painful. Some women are so caught up in cuddling with their new baby that they do not even realize when the placenta comes out.
During the placental stage, your caregiver will be focusing on the umbilical cord, checking the placenta to make sure all pieces have been expelled, checking the firmness of your uterus, and will be placing stitches if needed.
Risks During The Placental Stage
If your uterus feels boggy or soft to the caregiver when he/she feels your lower abdomen, this could indicate a sign that you may still be bleeding. The nurse or caregiver will massage your abdomen to encourage your uterus to contract. This can be very painful but necessary. Even if you do not have a boggy uterus, the nurse will massage your abdomen every so often to make sure everything progressing as it should.
Without the contractions during the placental stage, you would continue to bleed after the placenta has detached. This bleeding would lead to death if it were not stopped quickly. On the rare occasion that a mother’s body is not stopping the bleeding fast enough, the physician will give the mother medications to help contract her uterus. The most common medication given is pitocin. This is the same medication that is common in inductions.
In very rare situations, emergency surgery and even hysterectomy may be necessary. This is a very rare but it is something you be aware of. It is better to have the knowledge and never need it than to be in the situation and have no idea what is happening.
Keeping Your Placenta
Some mothers choose to keep their placenta. In Texas, the hospital is required by law to give you your placenta if you ask for it. If you would like your placenta, make sure you include it in your birth plan and remind the nurse who is taking care of you.
One popular use for the placenta is placenta encapsulation. Placenta encapsulation is a process where the placenta is cleaned, dehydrated, ground down, and placed into pill capsules. Many women claim taking their placenta in the weeks/months after birth increased their milk supply and significantly decreased the occurrence of postpartum depression.
If you are interested in learning more about placenta encapsulation, I highly recommend contacting my friends at Dallas-Ft. Worth Placenta. They are very efficient and have excellent processes in place. They will even come pick up your placenta at your birth location.
There is very little you have to be involved in during this stage, so just take these first, precious moments to drink in the experience, to cuddle and love your baby, to express your love for your husband, to congratulate each other, to talk to and sing to your baby. Your baby has been hearing both of your voices for several months and recognizes them at birth. Let him know you are there by singing and talking to him. It will calm him and seeing him look at you when you sing to him will cause your heart to leap with joy.
This article is part of a series on the stages of labor. If you are interested in other articles related to this subject, you may find them on my Stages of Labor Resource Page.
If you are in the Denton, TX area and are interested in hiring a doula for your birth experience, contact me today to schedule a free consultation. If you enjoyed this article, you may be interested in checking out my Comfort Measures in Labor page.