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Beginnings: Pregnancy, Birth & Beyond

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Giving birth: What happens during the third stage of labor

The third stage of labor is the shortest and the easiest. After your baby is born and the umbilical cord is cut, there is usually a lull for several minutes.

Then your uterus starts contracting again. These contractions are not as strong as pushing contractions. You may not be aware of them because you may be paying attention to your baby. These contractions separate the placenta from the wall of your uterus.

Your health care provider will ask you to start pushing. It usually only takes a few pushes to expel the placenta. Your health care provider will examine the placenta carefully to make sure the entire placenta is there.

All women lose some blood after delivery as the placenta separates from the uterus. The amount of blood in a woman's body increases by 50 percent during pregnancy, so your body is prepared to handle this loss of blood.

Postpartum hemorrhage

If you start bleeding heavily after your baby is born, it is called postpartum hemorrhage. This heavy bleeding can be caused by a piece of the placenta that stays attached to your uterus. Or, it can happen if your uterus doesn't contract well enough to close off the blood vessels where the placenta was attached.

If you bleed heavily, your health care provider can remove the piece of placenta and/or give you medicine to make your uterus contract. He or she may also massage your uterus. These treatments are usually enough to stop the bleeding.


Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Beginnings: Pregnancy, Birth and Beyond, sixth edition, ISBN 1-931876-14-2

First published: 10/04/2002
Last updated: 08/15/2011

Reviewed by: Allina Health's Patient Education Department experts