Phew! After 9 long months, the time will finally come when you’d be ready for that little one to be born. If you are a first-time mother, you might not know what to expect and since we don’t want you to be unprepared for the experience, here’s the information you need to know and prepare for the 3 stages of labor.
For starters, you’d need to know that this event is not without discomfort and pain; except of course you use an Epidural Anesthesia. Either way, chances are good that you will not awaken from a blissful sleep with a bundle of joy magically appearing at your side without your full knowledge of how the delivery went. So, since you will be involved in your baby’s delivery, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty.
This is when the contractions begin. It can feel like finger-like projections of discomfort or pain that start at your back and radiate outwards towards the center of your belly. Many women experience false labor pains called Braxton-Hicks contractions, but the contractions of stage 1, known as early labor, have a couple of characteristics that distinguish them from Braxton-Hicks, or false labor. These include regular interval, cervical dilation and effacement which is when the cervix begins to thin.
As the contractions become more regular, call your doctor first before heading for the hospital. You can also start using those breathing techniques you learned in childbirth class. They won’t stop the pain of the contractions, but will help keep you calmer, quieter, and more relaxed.
If your water hasn’t broken, your doctor may not advise you come to the hospital just yet; but once your water breaks, you will definitely need to head to the hospital and your doctor or your doctor’s staff should meet you there. The doctor and/or staff will begin to check you and see how your labor is progressing. Even though you may long to relax in your hospital room and lay in bed, your doctor may suggest you walk the halls if your dilation is going slow. This moving about may actually feel good to some mothers about to deliver.
The contractions of stage 1 will cause the baby’s head to be pressed down through the pelvis and against the inside of the cervix; causing the cervix to stretch open allowing the baby’s head to pass through into the vagina and on wards into the outside world. Once this happens, then the first stage of labour is completed and the second stage is about to begin. The first stage generally lasts up to 12 hours in a first labour and ten hours in subsequent deliveries, but each labour is different.
Stage 2 starts when the cervix is completely open i.e 10 cm dilated. At this point, most women usually have the sensation of fullness in their vaginas or bowels and the wish to push. This is because the baby has descended into the birth canal and is ready to be pushed out.
At this point, your doctor is watching closely to confirm that you are fully dilated and the baby is in the correct position to be safely delivered. His/her orders are crucial in this stage and you must listen carefully. Most women will find that the labour pains in the second stage of labour are more bearable, as they can now actively help themselves by pushing BUT please wait for your doctor to guide you on the right time to push. This can be hard especially with the contractions coming on fast and furious, and the desire to push being overwhelming.
As the pregnant mom, key for your comfort at this stage is to ensure you are in a a comfortable position; with any constricting clothing removed or pushed above your waist…of course while protecting modesty at all times though the use of blankets or similar. Once given the go-ahead to ‘push’, the delivery moves very quickly and right there amidst all the pain, the delivery suddenly comes to a quiet halt, and your little one is wailing to beat the band!
Congratulations…..you just became a mom of a lovely little angel and the second stage of labour has ended. It typically lasts for 30 minutes to two hours in a first labour and 10 to 60 minutes in subsequent deliveries.
In this stage, the placenta or afterbirth is expelled by the womb. This happens in a period of a few minutes to several hours after the baby is born.
In summary, labor is a natural process. The body knows what to do to ready itself for delivery of this new life. Knowing what your body is doing to prepare for this event is important and knowledge of the 3 stages of labor will help you rest easier and be ready when your body is!