The Labour and Delivery Process
Labour and delivery can be a very scary process for some women, especially for those who are experiencing their first pregnancies.
But by knowing exactly what to expect, the labour and delivery process are likely to go much more smoothly, and you will experience less anxiety.
There are three stages involved in labour.
First stage of labour
During the first phase you will begin to experience contractions and your cervix will dilate in order to allow the baby to proceed down the birth canal.
Contractions will be very light to start, and eventually progress to the point where they are intense and less than two minutes apart. This first stage can last a long time, however, the intense contractions generally only last an hour or two.
Second stage of labour
The second stage of labour is the pushing the stage. During this stage, your cervix is fully dilated and your body will begin to push your baby out through the birth canal.
Depending upon your position and whether or not you have been given labour medications, this stage can last up to three hours. But many women find that the pushing stage actually goes much more quickly. Your baby will arrive during this stage!
Third stage of labour
In the final stage of labour, you will pass your placenta. This is what has nourished your baby over the months of your pregnancy. After you have given birth, you will notice that your body will continue to experience contractions.
These contractions help you to birth the placenta. You can ask your health care provider to show you the placenta if you wish.
After baby is born, she will be assessed by your health care provider to make sure that she is perfectly healthy. Your baby will be weighed and measured and then swaddled and brought to your bedside. You can begin breastfeeding your baby within an hour or two of birth.
Late Pregnancy Complications
Unfortunately, as with early pregnancy, there are a number of late pregnancy complications that can threaten the health of both you and your baby. By being aware of these complications, you can take steps to reduce your risk:
- Preterm Labour: Preterm labour occurs when the labour process begins before the 37th week of pregnancy. About 12% of all babies in the United Kingdom are born prematurely. The earlier the preterm birth, generally the more severe the health complications: preterm babies often have immature lungs and kidneys, and have difficulty developing properly.
- Preeclampsia: Preeclampsia is a serious health condition that occurs during pregnancy. It is most common in women who are experiencing their first pregnancies and usually develops after the 20th week of pregnancy. When severe, it can restrict blood flow to the placenta, resulting in stillbirth. Preeclampsia is characterized by maternal high blood pressure and the presence of protein in the urine. Symptoms include dizziness, swelling of the hands and face, and abdominal pain.
- Placental Problems: Placental problems, including placental abruption and placenta previa are fairly common in late pregnancy. Placental abruption occurs when the placenta begins to prematurely separate from the uterine wall. It can be very serious, and may result in stillbirth should your baby be deprived of necessary oxygen and nutrients. Placenta previa occurs when the placenta is very low-lying and covers the cervix. This can make it difficult for baby to travel into the birth canal, complicating labor and delivery. Unexplained vaginal bleeding is a common sign of placental complications.