Pregnancy stretches for 9 months, or 40 weeks, during which major changes occur in your body as your baby continues to transform from a fertilised egg to a full-grown human. Although pregnancy spans around 40 weeks, most women do not give birth in their 40th week. The baby is generally delivered from week 37 to 42. If you do not have a medical complication, you can have a normal delivery.
This type of delivery is when the woman gives birth through her vagina without any medical intervention. It is also called vaginal birth.
It takes 40 weeks for the baby to fully develop. However, labour and birth, which is the final step in pregnancy, take just a few days or even hours. As challenging as it is, here are some symptoms of labour, which are signs that you are about to give birth:
There are three stages of labour:
This is the first and probably the longest phase of labour. During this time, you experience contractions, which happen so that your cervix opens to give birth. It can be further divided into two phases:
Breathing deeply, massage, and taking a warm water bath can help you with the symptoms. Although in the established phase, your cervix dilates 4 cm, your cervix needs to open up 10 cm for the baby to come out. This is when your cervix gets fully dilated. If you are pregnant for the first time, this period, from the start of labour to you getting fully dilated, generally takes 10-12 hours. This period reduces succeeding pregnancies.
This second phase spans from when your cervix is fully dilated till the baby is born. As your cervix opens up 10 cm, the baby moves further down the birth canal close to your vagina so as to take birth. This is also the time when you will have the urge to push. If this is your first pregnancy, the pushing stage can last for three hours. And if it is your second or third time, this will take no longer than two hours.
As you push, the baby gets further down. When his/her head is about to come out, you will be told to stop pushing, and instead, take deep breaths. This is to give the time for the area between your anus and vagina to stretch so that the baby’s head can come out easily. Once that is done, pushing out the rest of the body is easy and happens in just one to two contractions. Once the baby is born, you can hold him/her in your arms. Generally, the baby needs to be breastfed within an hour of being born.
This stage begins after the baby is born. During this time, the womb contracts, and the placenta is pushed out. The umbilical cord connects your baby with the placenta. Once the baby is born, the doctor cuts the umbilical cord and the placenta is pushed out. There are two ways to manage this third phase of pregnancy:
Active: With this method, this third phase is speeded up. This is done by injecting oxytocin into you. This makes your womb contract. The placenta comes out quicker, reducing the risk of heavy bleeding. However, it has downsides as well. This method will make you feel sick and you might feel severe afterpains, which are similar to menstrual cramps.
Physiological: This involves no medical intervention and this phase is allowed to proceed naturally. The umbilical cord is not cut until it stops pulsing, as the blood is still supplied to the baby. This generally happens for 2-4 minutes after birth. Then, the placenta is pushed out. In the case of the physiological method, it might take about an hour for the placenta to come out. However, the actual pushing out of the placenta takes just about a minute.
A woman can give birth through normal delivery or through cesarean. Both the methods have certain benefits and risks associated with them. Here are some of the benefits of a normal delivery:
There are several benefits of normal delivery. However, there can be certain risks too:
Giving birth is not a small accomplishment, no matter what method you choose to deliver. You undergo major changes during those nine months, take care of yourself and your child, suffer from symtoms some of which can be severe, and prepare yourself for the next chapter of your life. If you have decided upon normal delivery, here are some tips that might help:
Just like the whole pregnancy, giving birth can be extremely challenging. However, there is a sense of elation as well with the thought of holding your baby in your arms and anticipation over the next chapter in your life. Although it is good to be prepared, it is equally important to enjoy the whole journey and take good care of yourself and your little one.