The wait is finally over and it is time to bring your baby into this world.
The due date your doctor provided you can be off a bit but there are some tell-tale signs that labor is about to begin.
Labor & Delivery
Lightening. Your baby’s head drops down into the pelvic region to prepare for delivery. Your baby bump may look lower and your breathing may improve as your baby moves away from the lungs. However, your urge to urinate increases even more as your baby presses against the bladder. Lightening can occur a few weeks to a few hours before the onset of labor.
Diarrhea. Frequent loose stools may be a precursor to labor.
Bloody show. You notice a slightly bloody or brownish discharge. Contractions that occur at intervals of less than 10 minutes and become progressively more frequent.
Water breaks. Fluid leaking occurs as the amniotic sac is broken. Most women go into labor within 24 hours.
Questions? Am I in Labor?
When do you call your doctor when you’re in labor? When do you go to the hospital? What do you need to pack in your hospital bag? Download this Having a Baby / Hospital Bag Checklist.
Stages of Labor
The time spent in each stage of delivery varies. If this is your first pregnancy, it usually lasts about 12 to 14 hours. It becomes shorter for subsequent pregnancies. Labor is typically divided into three stages:
- The Latent Phase
- Active Phase
The delivery stage begins when the cervix is completely effaced or open
The placenta, which provided nourishment to your baby in the womb, is delivered
The tabs below provide more information on each stage.
Latent Phase is the longest and can last one to two days. During this phase, your cervix will begin to open (dilate) and thin out (efface) and contractions would become more and more frequent. When your contractions are regular and strong, and coming every four to five minutes for one to two hours, you should call your midwife or doctor. Call the doctor right away if:
- Your discharge becomes bright red
- When your water breaks, the amniotic fluid is greenish
- You don’t feel any fetal activity
During the Active Phase, the cervix begins to dilate more rapidly and you get examined regularly to assess how labor is progressing. You may feel intense pain during each contraction and you won’t be able to talk through them. Many women ask for pain relief (see pain management for options). On average, your cervix will dilate about one centimeter per hour.
The last part of active labor is called Transition when the cervix fully dilates to 10 centimeters. Contractions come almost every three minutes and last for about a minute. They can be strong and painful. You may also feel the urge to push down, but your provider will ask you to wait until your cervix is completely open. This is the time to use the breathing and relaxation exercises you learned from the expectant parent classes. You will need support from your partner. Don’t be shy about asking for help whether it is a back rub or a wet washcloth to put on your face. You may feel very warm and sweaty and feel strong pressure in the lower back.
The delivery stage begins when the cervix is completely effaced or open. Now is the time to push which will help move your baby through the birth canal. You may want to try different positions like kneeling, squatting, or sitting to see what feels most comfortable. When your baby’s head becomes visible and stays visible without slipping back in, it is called crowning. Once your baby is delivered, your doctor or your partner clamps and cuts the umbilical cord. You will be advised to not have sex for 6 weeks.
A water birth means at least part of your labor and/or delivery takes place in a temperature-regulated warm tub of water. The idea behind water birth is that it would be gentler for the baby to come into this world in water which would be a more familiar environment for her since she has been swimming in amniotic fluid all her life. Being in water during the first stage of labor may have some benefits like easing pain, reducing the need for anesthesia, and speeding labor. Warm water may help you relax and move more easily. However, delivery under water comes with some risks. Usually, water births are for mothers who do not need to be monitored closely. Talk to your provider to see if a water birth is an option for you.
Delivery by Cesarean
A cesarean section, or C-section, is a surgical procedure to deliver your baby by making an incision in your abdomen and uterus. It can be pre-planned or performed urgently to protect the health of the mother or the baby. The rate of cesarean sections has grown by more than 50% in the last decade to account for about a third of all births in the U.S. A typical cesarean section lasts about 3-4 hours.
The advantages of a cesarean section include knowing precisely when your baby is going to be born and having a team of medical professionals present to address any complications. However, it is major surgery that can damage surrounding organs or cause an infection. It will prolong your hospital stay to about 3 days versus two days for a vaginal birth. You will be advised not to lift much more than your baby or drive for a couple of weeks and refrain from exercise or sex for six weeks.
In this stage, the placenta, which provided nourishment to your baby in the womb, is delivered. It usually takes 20 to 30 minutes after birth. Your provider will examine you and stitch any tears.
Heartfelt Care Starts Here
The birth of your baby is one of the most memorable, life-changing, and exciting experiences of your life. Schedule an appointment today to learn about the heartfelt care we provide during your journey.