What to expect during childbirth.
The Stages of Labor
Over the last few weeks of pregnancy, the cervix has been gradually ripening and softening. Uterine contractions are occurring during this time. Some may be strong, some barely noticeable, but each is preparing your body for the actual onset of labor.
Labor is divided into three distinct stages. In the first stage one labor, the cervix dilates (opens) and effaces (thins), allowing the descent of the baby toward birth. During second stage of labor, the baby passes through the birth canal and is born. The third stage of labor involves the delivery of the placenta. These stages are not equal in time or intensity and every birth will follow its own pattern.
- Easy to use Contractions Timer with contractions log print out.
The First Stage of Labor
|Most likely what will happen when you go into labor is that you will begin to feel contractions. With some women the water breaks, and then they begin to have contractions. In the first stage of labor, the cervix will dilate from closed, which is its normal state, to fully open at 10 cm in diameter.|
In mothers having their first child, this stage usually lasts 12 to 16 hours.
For women having second or subsequent children, the first stage lasts around 6 to 7 hours.
Stage one can be divided into three phases:
Early labor (dilation up to 4 cm), active labor (4 cm to 8 cm) and transition (8 cm to 10 cm).
The early phase:
During this early phase of labor, you may feel excited and nervous now that the moment that you have been waiting for has finally come. This phase typically lasts around half of the time most women are in labor, so it gives you the chance to telephone people, get your partner back from the golf course or supermarket, and hunt down the crossword you didn't finish this morning.
You may want to rest, walk, shower, or eat lightly. It is very important to keep hydrated by drinking lots of water and juice. You may experience leaking of amniotic fluid or 'show', the expulsion of the plug which may be stained with blood that has kept the cervix sealed.
Contractions in early labor become regular in their occurrence, from 10 to 20 minutes apart and lasting 30 to 60 seconds. Contractions are measured from the beginning of one to the beginning of the next.
The active phase:
Active labor is the next phase, and you will notice a change when you hit this stage. contractions become regular and form a pattern of increasing frequency. You will do best if you are able to relax and concentrate on what your body is doing. Stay active, just as it is called. Relax during your contractions, with simple, regular breathing patterns. They will not stop with change of movement or position and they become progressively stronger.
Keep moving and changing positions, using gravity positive postures. Discomfort can often be helped by body positions that allow gravity to speed dilation, such as walking, squatting, kneeling forward on a chair or birth ball, or lying on your side. This will help the baby move down in the pelvis faster and less painfully.
The transition phase:
Though labor may be difficult at this point, you are getting close to the birth of your baby as you enter that final phase of stage one, known as transition. Transition, or the turning point right before birth is the hardest and most intense. It is also the shortest of the 3 stages, lasting from 10 to 45 minutes.
You will have a contraction every two minutes or so and each one will last a minute or more. You may at this point decide to yell and holler. The tried and true method is to squeeze your partner's hand until he is yelling too, or to tell him what a bastard he is for getting you in this condition.
This is your body's last effort to open the cervix fully to allow for birth. Your hormones are working with your baby's at full speed to prepare for delivery. Once you have dilated to 10 cm, you will begin taking an active participating role in what your body is doing.
The Second Stage of Labor - Birth
|You have finally arrived at the second stage of labor - the birth. Your body will feel the urge to push the baby out and you will bear down in order to bring your baby into the world. The baby's head will appear as the baby is 'crowning' and your medical attendants will guide you through the last few pushes to deliver your child.|
There is no one correct position for pushing. There are several, each with advantages and disadvantages. It is highly recommended that you practice each one, through a couple of practice contractions, just to see for yourself whether you find them comfortable, or practical. Do not actually practice pushing, as this can put unnecessary strain on your cervix.
The second stage of labor usually takes a couple of hours for new moms; women who have already had children may shorten that time somewhat.
The Third Stage of Labor
|Between 5 minutes to 1 hour after your baby is born, you will complete the third stage of labor by delivering the placenta and membranes that have nourished and contained your baby throughout your pregnancy. These contractions are milder and occur as you are marveling at your child and feeling the support of your loved ones and caregivers.|
However these stages progress, your experience will be unique to you and your child and will be the beginning of a beautiful new stage in the life of your family.
|Drink water regularly|
- at least 8 glasses
of fluid a day