Labor and Delivery
At the end of the third trimester of pregnancy, your body will begin to show signs that it is time for your baby to be born. The process that leads to birth of your baby is called labor and delivery. Every labor and delivery includes certain stages, but each birth is unique. Even if you have had a baby before, each time will be different.
What are the stages of labor?
There are three stages of labor. The first stage includes early labor and active labor. The second stage begins after you have dilated completely and lasts through the birth. The third stage begins after the birth of your baby and last until the placenta is delivered.
Stage One: The muscles of the uterus tighten (contract) and then relax. These contractions thin and open the cervix so that the baby can pass through the birth canal. In early labor, the contractions are usually irregular and can last less than a minute. The early phase can vary in length lasting from a few hours to days. During active labor, the contractions become strong and regular lasting about a minute each. This is the time to go to the hospital.
Stage Two: The cervix is completely dilated, and you will push with your contractions until the baby is delivery.
Stage Three: This stage occurs after the baby is born. You may have contractions until the placenta is delivered.
How can you manage pain?
Having a support person and breathing exercises may help you cope with labor pain. You can also take a warm bath to help relax. At the hospital, there are different forms of pain medication including intravenous narcotics and an epidural. Narcotics help reduce anxiety and partially relieve pain. An epidural is an ongoing injection of pain medicine into the epidural space around your spinal cord. This will partially or fully numb your lower body.
What can I expect right after childbirth?
Now you get to hold and look at your baby for the first time. You may feel excited, tired and amazed all at the same time. If you plan to breast-feed, you may start immediately after birth. Don’t be surprised if you have some trouble at first. Breast-feeding is something you and your baby have to learn together. You will get better with practice. If you need help getting started, breast-feeding specialists (lactation consultants) will be available in the hospital.
During the first hours after the birth, your nurse will:
- Massage your uterus by rubbing your lower abdomen about every 15 minutes. This
- helps to tighten/contract your uterus and to stop bleeding.
- Check your vital signs frequently.
- Make sure your bladder does not get too full.
- If an epidural was placed, this will be removed after your delivery.