The word Labor can create a mix of emotions. First comes the excitement signaling the end of your pregnancy which is then almost immediately followed by anxiety. The term labor can be defined as physical work, which is exactly what you are going to experience. The best way to go into this stage of your pregnancy is to be prepared and find out as much as you possibly can about what happens during labor and delivery. That knowledge will make the occasion much more relaxed; you will feel more in control and may actual enjoy this incredible miracle that is "birth".
Throughout your pregnancy you might have experienced cramping and “pre-labor” pains that can be associated with Braxton Hicks. As with most medical terms, Braxton Hicks was named after the doctor who first identified the contractions. This is an important stage that your body goes through, especially in the last trimester, as it gets ready for the impending birth of your child. Braxton Hicks aren’t true contractions but rather “practice” ones that soften and thin your cervix so that your baby’s head can settle into your pelvis. The actual feeling can be described as a tightening or cramping sensation in your abdomen. Usually you can alleviate this uncomfortable sensation by moving around, lying down or just deep breathing. If your Braxton Hicks contractions don’t go away, and when timing them, if they are actually getting closer together then you should contact your obstetrician and make sure that you aren’t actually in labor.
There are some signs that you look for which let you know that labor is approaching. It is important to note that sometimes these signs show up weeks earlier and for others it is just days before labor. No one can accurately determine exactly when your baby is going to come, so these are just guidelines in terms of the approximate time in which they occur.
Signs that labor is impending
Keep in mind that once your contracts have been happening for over an hour and are increasing in length and in shorter intervals, you should head to the hospital. It is also important to note that subsequent babies arrive in half the time as the first. In any case, if you are unsure with what is happening, there is no shame in contacting your doctor or midwife to consult with them. There is nothing to be embarrassed about.
The first stage of labor is the one described above. It is the early time in which uterine contractions work to fully dilate the cervix so that your baby can exit the birth canal. This stage can take an hour or several hours, it is important to note that all pregnancies are different and all labors are different as well. Your doctor and nurse will be able to check you at each point and tell you how many centimeters you have dilated.
There are many ways in which you can deal with the pain for this stage of labor. Especially towards the end of the first stage of labor where you are dilating from 8-10cm and will probably experiencing a lot of pain. It is important to report your pain level to your healthcare provider as it could mean that your body needs extra oxygen or nourishment. Just like when you are exercising, hard work (and labor is definitely hard word) requires nutrition to keep the muscles working. It is not a big deal for the nurse to give some oxygen to assist you during this part of labor. An important part of your preparation with your healthcare provider is for you to discuss and inform him/her of exactly what you wish/expect to happen in labor in terms of pain control.
Ways in which you can control labor naturally
This stage is also known as the “pushing” stage. It usually only takes about an hour but can be as short as 5-10minutes. It is important to note that this stage of labor can be lengthened significantly if anesthetic is given. Many women prefer this stage of labor to the first (more lengthy) stage. It gives them a sense of purpose and a feeling of “it’s almost over”. Some women report that bearing down makes some of the pain cease since the compression of nerves serves as a form of anesthetic itself. There are still contractions at this point in your labor but they are usually every 2-4 minutes and you can slow them down by lying in a knee-chest position.
If your doctor or nurse gives you the ok to push then it is because your baby is almost here. You may have felt the urge to push before they say you can, but it is important to wait until they give you instructions. They are the experts and can give your baby out in the easiest and fastest way possible. When your baby’s head appears at the entrance to your vagina, you will feel a burning feeling and a huge pressure on your rectum.
As your baby is being born, pushing in a slow, controlled way is best to allow the perineum to stretch gradually and prevent tears. This is also the point where doctors may speak to you about an episiotomy. If you can, try to do this stage of pushing without an episiotomy as many studies have shown that a natural tear is easier, smaller and heals much faster than a larger, straight cut made by an episiotomy. Your doctor will advise you on the best route for your specific labor.
After your baby is born, his/her umbilical cord is clamped in two places and then cut in between. Often the new father is asked to cut the cord to allow him to feel more involved in the delivery process. It is an important symbolic gesture.
After your baby has been delivered, the pediatrician and/or doctor will take the baby to be looked at. It is also the point in which you will enter the last stage of labor, which is the delivery of the placenta. For most deliveries, this is the stage that requires the least amount of effort.
Further contractions will evacuate your uterus and then it will be examined to check that fragments of it haven’t been broken off and left inside during labor and delivery. If there are pieces broken off, they will be manually taken out.
After the placenta is removed from you, it is time for you to welcome your little one in your arms and thank your blessings for the gift of life.
Breech babies means that the baby’s legs/bum is closest to the cervix. This position can make things a lot more difficult on the mother and the child during delivery. This is because the baby’s head is the largest part of the body and can get trapped when it goes through the cervix. Usually your doctor can pick it up at 3rd Trimester ultrasound and can sometimes be massaged into the correct position for birth. If the baby cannot be maneuvered, your doctor may suggest the need to deliver by a C-section as a way to protect both the safety of the mother and the baby.
A Posterior baby is one who descends into the birth canal with his/her head down but his back towards his mother’s spine. This type of delivery may result in a greater amount of back pain and longer delivery. Often your doctor will try and encourage the baby to rotate during the pushing phase.
While it may seem that delivering multiple babies that the birth process will be longer and more painful, often it is not the case. Many women can give birth to twins (or more) vaginally faster than with single babies. You will definitely have an anesthesiologist standing by in case the babies need help and the delivery goes into a cesarean birth. There are also cases where the first baby can deliver vaginally without any problem but the second baby needs assistance. Your doctor can assist with Pitocin (which speeds up delivery) or even with forceps if needed.
It is important to note that most triplets are delivered by C-Section, so that it is a controlled setting where a multitude of nurses and doctors can assist in case of a problem.