Childbirth can be defined as the most challenging and demanding experience women have to go through in their life. It places great stress on a woman not only physically but also emotionally. The process of childbirth can be broadly divided into 4 stages of labor. Let us have a brief overview of them.
This stage begins with mild and irregular contractions. As the contractions start to become regular, the cervix dilates. This is followed by thinning of the cervix walls, a process termed as effacement. The dilation and effacement of the cervix push the baby into the mother’s birth canal (vagina). The first stage of labor is further subdivided into 3 parts –
- Early Labor Phase
Contractions in this stage are mild and irregular lasting for 30-45 seconds. Contractions will be 5-15 minutes apart. Slowly, contractions start to become more intense and frequent. The cervix opens to about 4 centimeters in this stage. The women will experience her water breaking – a process known as amniotic sac rupture during this stage of labor. There might be a vaginal discharge – either red or pink, a warning signal to rush to the hospital.
2. Active Labor Phase
During this stage, the contractions are stronger, regular with very little time gaps in between two contractions. There is a lot of physical stress placed on the body. Doctors recommend taking deep breaths to ease the pain caused by the intense contractions. To ease the discomfort, it is advised to walk around the room, change your position if on the bed or take warm baths. These also help in labor progress to the next phase.
The close contractions are an indication that the cervix is opening faster. The speed is close to 1 centimeter per hour, although, it varies for every delivery. When the cervix has opened up to 7 centimeters the delivery has reached the transition stage.
3. Transition Stage
The shortest but the most challenging and tiring stage of labor for the mother-to-be. Contractions last for 60-90 seconds with high intensity. The gap between successive contractions is only 2-3 minutes. The cervix walls dilate to 10 centimeters. Due to intense contractions, the woman might feel irritated and frustrated. At this stage, the mother requires unwavering help from her support person. Once the cervix has dilated fully, its time to shift to the next stage of labor.
Second Stage – Birth of the baby
With each successive contraction, the baby will move down the birth canal. The doctor will ask the mother to push on every contraction. This will help the baby to come out faster.
The baby’s head will be pushed out first. The doctor might ask the mother to feel it or see it through a mirror. This is to give the mother some comfort and motivation. A few more pushes and the baby would have arrived.
Once the delivery has been successful, the placenta will be delivered shortly in 5- 30 minutes. The doctor might advise continuing some gentle pushes to get the placenta out.
This is the post-recovery stage. With the baby in her arms, the mother will be comfortable and overjoyed at seeing her baby. It is time to nurse the baby.
While it may be a stressful and painful journey, motherhood brings immense joy and pleasure to a woman. The warmth of holding a baby and seeing the baby smile makes the whole experience worthwhile