Stages of Labor & Birth: What`s Essential to Know?
Natural birth, or vaginal birth at it`s also known, is perhaps the oldest method of bringing a baby into this world. Even if Caesarean birth has become a trend and began of collecting more and more adherents in the modern era, there are still strong and courageous women, who don`t fear pain and want to have control over their body when they give birth. Here`s what you should know about natural birth and what are its phases!
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Natural Birth Stages
Natural birth takes place in several stages or phases, which correspond to those of labor, meaning the moment when water breaks and start the contractions preceding the birth itself.
- Early labor – cervical dilation and contractions start.
- Active labor (pushing and actual birth).
- Eliminating the placenta.
Natural birth starts long before water breaks or the appearance of first contractions, specific to labor. Before their debut, there`s a stage known as pre-labor, or prodromal labor, which starts a few weeks before due date. During this period, the fetus starts to prepare for the actual birth, by positing himself properly with his head down towards the vagina.
This is the period in which the so called Braxton-Hicks contractions appear, which aren`t contractions that should make you hurry to the hospital, but which they announce that the moment in which you`ll be able to hold your baby in your arms is near. – Additional info!
Also, the opening or softening of the cervix occurs during pre-labor, however, without the occurrence of dilation. The gelatinous plug that protects the baby starts to be eliminated gradually through the vagina, until the moment when water breaks. Don`t be too concerned if there are small bloody streaks on the toilet paper after using the toilet, as this is perfectly normal at this point.
First Stage of Labor – Cervical Dilation and Contractions
The increase in frequency of contractions already announces the entry into active labor. When the frequency and intensity of the contractions start to increase, and you are aware of other symptoms of labor, it`s time to go to the hospital to prepare for childbirth.
The first stage of labor doesn`t have a well defined duration, but rather differs from one person to another. The stage ends when the cervix is sufficiently dilated to be able for birth, and the contractions occur more frequently and are stronger.
During the first stage, the cervix dilates 3 cm, and the contractions last around 30 – 45 seconds. They repeat at intervals of 5 to 20 minutes. Then follows the stage during which the dilation reaches around 7 cm and contractions that last for up to 60 seconds, while eventually the dilation reaches 8 – 10 cm when the second stage of labor starts, the one when the baby is pushed and brought out from the vagina. When the cervix reaches the recommended dilation, the contractions are even more frequent. They appear once every 30 – 90 seconds and last between 60 and 120 seconds.
Pushing & Actual Birth
When the contractions start to become more frequent, you`ll feel an uncontrollable need to push, no matter if the doctor asks this from you or not.
It`s important to manage to abstain only in the moments when the doctor is asking this from you. The contractions that are stronger, usually last between 50 – 90 seconds and occur every 2 – 5 minutes.
In a normal childbirth, the baby exists through the vaginal canal with his head first. Of course that during this stage there may be complications, and if this may happen, there`s a risk of imposing surgery – episiotomy or C-section. But these situations rarely happen. – More details!
The pain will be stronger when you`ll have to push and when the baby`s head comes out – you`ll be feeling a burning sensation. Then, the rest of the baby`s body is expelled more easily.
The birth and baby`s expulsion stage lasts around 60 minutes, but this interval varies from woman to woman, depending on the complications that may occur at birth.
Eliminating the Placenta
During this stage, the baby was already expelled, but the childbirth process isn`t over. The contractions may still continue after the baby was born. They occur due to the detachment of the placenta from the uterus and the body`s tendency of eliminating it from the organism Generally, the expulsion of the placenta occurs naturally, without medical intervention, and its evacuation may present blood traces. You don`t have to concern – it`s perfectly natural as the doctor may have already told you.
There is also the case where a medical intervention may be required to remove the placenta. It`s important for it to be eliminated from the organism completely. Otherwise, there`s a risk of postpartum hemorrhage or infection, which may be very dangerous for your life.
It`s important to present yourself constantly at all medical examinations, because the doctor needs to investigate the condition of your genitals and how you recover after childbirth.
You may read more on Can You Have Contractions Without Pain?
The birth process is considered finished around 2 hours after the baby`s expulsion, period during which the placenta is also eliminated, and the doctors find no hemorrhage or other postpartum complications.
Since our body has suffered a lot of changes before birth, it will need a period of transition to recover. From the physical point of view, you may confront yourself with:
- Pain at the site of episiotomy or laceration (difficult to walk or sit, but also when coughing, sneezing).
- Breast/nipple pain (they may become inflamed, thicker and become painful along with the occurrence of milk).
- Hemorrhoids (varicose veins inflamed in the anal area).
- Constipation (it`s difficult to defecate for a few days after birth due to muscle pain).
- Hot flashes (the body tries to change level of hormones and blood flow; you may sweat or you may be cold).
- Urinary inconsistency or faeces (the muscles stretch a lot during delivery, especially if it`s a long labor involved, so you might notice urine leakage when sneezing or it might be rather difficult to control defecation).
- Contractions (due to the uterus which returns the original size before pregnancy; they often occur when breastfeeding). – Read more!
- Vaginal discharges (lochia; they are bloody and in larger amount the menstruation, becoming pink to white-yellow and disappearing after around 2 months.
The stages of natural birth aren`t easy to all, but in the end, all the effort is rewarded. A child is indeed a extraordinary miracle, maybe the only real miracle from a woman`s life.