What is a normal delivery?
Childbirth is one of the most unique processes you can experience in your life that will be etched in your memory forever. Most expecting mothers are usually advised on many concerns arising during pregnancy and post delivery, but few really share about what to expect and what you should do during the entire process of labor or childbirth.
The overall objective of understanding how a normal delivery is done is to maintain a positive experience for the woman and her family along with maintaining the physical and psychological health of the mother.
A vaginal birth remains the number one method of child birth, however, for many reasons along the way, a Cesarean section may be required.
Onset of labor
By around 37 to 42 weeks, labor may begin. It includes well-timed rhythmic contractions of the womb to push the baby out. It begins with regular periodic contractions in the uterus which gradually open the neck of the uterus i.e. cervix. When this cervix is fully expanded and open, the contractions slowly push the baby down the neck of the uterus, through your pelvis and the vagina.
Labor can start spontaneously or be artificially triggered by your health care providers. Labor is considered full term if it occurs between 37 to 42 weeks and preterm if it occurs before 37 weeks. What triggers labor is not really known, but doctors think it is the changing level of hormones or certain proteins produced by baby’s developing lungs.
How will you know you are in labor?
Contractions usually signal the onset of labor; initially they come at irregular intervals and eventually become very regular. Gradually these contractions become periodic and closer to each other. Also, you might feel the water bag that lines the womb and encloses your baby rupture, signaling onset of childbirth.
A normal delivery occurs in three stages, though the length and duration of these stages may vary for every woman.
First Stage Of Labor
The first stage of labor includes a latent phase followed by the active phase.
- Contractions are present but not always painful. The muscles of the uterus are trying to coordinate. This phase can vary widely between women. It can last for hours to days as the womb can take longer time to make more effective contractions, especially in first time mothers. Your water bag may break or you may feel a mucus plug called ‘show’ in your undergarments which may be streaked with blood. With time the contractions become stronger and exert pressure on the cervix to dilate it.
- In the active phase, your cervix dilates from 4cm to about 10 cms. This is when you begin to feel labor pains more intensely. This can last for about 3 to 6 hours for first time mothers and about half as long for subsequent births. In this phase, the pains increase in frequency from 3 to 5 minutes and maybe centered in the lower back, abdomen or thighs. During this time women should empty their bladders, drink fluids and practice breathing or relaxation techniques.
- This stage ends with a fully diluted cervix from 8 to 10 cms.
Second Stage Of Labor – Pushing And Giving Birth
In first time mothers, the second stage lasts for an average of one and half to two hours. However, in subsequent births it can last for merely few minutes to two hours. Your doctor will ask you to push and the contractions speedup too. During this stage you might fatigue and feel breathless. Intense pain may be felt around the vaginal and anal area as the baby’s protrudes or crowning occurs. Slowly, with further pushing the rest of the head and the body will emerge leading to one final push which lets the baby out in to the world. This probably is your toughest workout ever in life.
Third Stage Of Labor
The third stage or the last stage of labor involves the delivery of the placenta.
The birth of the baby is followed by the expulsion of the placenta and is called as the ‘after birth’. This takes about a few m minutes to half an hour. This stage may go unnoticed as you may be busy observing and admiring your newborn.
This is followed by putting the baby to your breast as this helps to encourage uterine contractions and stop bleeding.
By the end of this stage you will feel an overwhelming sense of exhaustion and a few hours of sleep would do a great deal of good to your body.
Normal Delivery At Home
Normal delivery can be done at home with your husband under the proper guidance of a trained midwife. However, a hospital setting would be ideal in case of any unexpected complications during normal delivery.
Your health provider and their team will help you nurse your baby immediately after birth.
Disclaimer: The information in the article is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your doctor.