The End of a Pregnancy and Delivering a New-born

At the end of 9 months the big moment has arrived. You’ve gone through all the appointments, given up alcohol, looked after your health and diet all for this big moment: the birth of your child. While an amazing and momentous event, childbirth can also be quite daunting for anyone who doesn’t know much about it. That is where this article comes in, giving you a step by step guide to everything involved in childbirth, all to prepare you so you know what to expect and can get into the delivery room with confidence.

Preparing for labour and delivery

While internet articles are a great way to read up on the ins and outs of childbirth, there is no substitute for advice from a doctor. You should definitely discuss any questions or concerns you have either with your GP or obstetrician, and look into childbirth classes which are designed to prepare you and your partner both mentally and physically for your treatment.

How do I know when I’m going to give birth?

There is no specific date or time that can be given for childbirth, it is the culmination of a long series of events during your pregnancy and your body, which is completely individual, will take its time to do its job. You will experience contractions, tightening of the muscles of the uterus and pelvis, from time to time from your 2nd trimester onwards. Most of these are just contractions and are no indication of the onset of labour (regular contractions of the uterus signalling childbirth), and are referred to as Braxton Hicks Contractions, which can be alarming but are no cause for worry as they are part of the natural process.

Typically when labour is in the offing, contractions become more and more regular, frequent, and stronger, which is a distinct sign that you are entering the childbirth process and need to be taken to a hospital and prepared for delivery. However the biggest and most well-known signal of impending childbirth will be your water breaking. This is the rupture of a structure called the amniotic sac, a fluid filled membrane which is designed to protect and cushion the growing foetus. Your water breaking will feel like a rush of liquid or a slow leaking which will happen just before the onset of or during labour. You may feel slightly embarrassed by your water breaking if you happen to be in public, but rest assured that your pregnancy will be visible and people tend to be understanding and sympathetic as they know that you are about to deliver a child!

Labour and the process of childbirth – Stage One

Labour and delivery are both very systematic processes, designed to push your baby out smoothly and safely. Labour can last anywhere from 12 up to 18 hours, although it is not uncommon to last longer, it all depends on you and your body and there are no set rules.

The first stage of the process involves regular contractions and the dilation of your cervix. Throughout this first stage your contractions will become more and more frequent and intense. The first stage of labour can actually be split up according to the intensity of contractions. The early or latent phase involves milder contractions up to an hour apart, and as they become as much as a minute long and as often as every five minutes or so, you will find yourself in the active phase. It is at this point that you make your way to the hospital and prepare for childbirth in earnest. Finally the transition phase will take place, during which contractions can last for around 90 seconds and be as often as 2 minutes apart. Fortunately this phase is a short one, and marks the end of stage one.

Alongside these contractions during stage one, and as a consequence of them, your cervix dilates. This is a very important part of delivery and has a lot to do with how long each stage of labour is. You need to have a cervix that has dilated to about 10 cm to be able to deliver your baby, and typically you will only be dilated up to 3 cm during the latent phase, up to 7 cm during the active, and be approaching 10 cm during the transition phase. Once your cervix is sufficiently dilated, stage two begins, the actual delivery.

Stage Two

During the second stage you will be asked to push, and pre-natal classes and the like will prepare you for how to go about this. This stage is very dependent on things like your position, the baby’s position, and the like, with upright positioning of the mother being quite important to a speedy delivery. This stage is easily defined by its end, the delivery of your child!

Stage Three

Although you’ve done the hard bit and now have your baby out in the wide world, you will be in stage three, and not quite done yet. Your doctor will ask you to push again to deliver the placenta, an important supportive structure that maintains your baby during your pregnancy. Don’t worry, the placenta tends to be much easier to expel.

Stage Four

You’ve made it and are now cradling your new born child, don’t worry, stage our doesn’t involve contractions so rest assured that that unpleasantness is behind you. Stage four is post-partum and just involves the changes your body will now undergo after delivering your baby and ending its pregnancy period.

It is not uncommon for women at this stage to experience what is called post-partum depression. This is, as the name suggests, a period of depression which can happen anytime within the first year after delivery, and can vary in severity and length. Pregnancy puts a lot of pressure on you, both physically and psychologically, and a lot of this pressure comes from rapid changes in hormone levels and from the dramatic changes to your lifestyle that comes with your new-born child. For a lot of mothers, postpartum can be just a couple of weeks of the ‘baby blues’, where they experience restlessness and anxiety which soon dissipate without developing into postpartum depression. If you find yourself suffering particularly unhappy or depressed in the year following your pregnancy, you should talk to your GP or health visitor.

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