The last nine months have been a period of mixed feelings and experiences for you. You have carried your little angel inside your womb for the last nine months. You have given your protection to the little life growing inside you and now you cannot wait to hold your baby in your arms. Your baby is about to arrive and change your life forever.
But before you experience the ultimate moment of ecstasy when you hold your baby in your arms, you still have to go through the stages of labor which can be extremely painful and uncomfortable. Though the experience of delivering a baby is different for every woman, yet most women describe the stages of labor with a unanimous opinion as being enormously painful and extremely exhausting. During the process of labor, the uterus experiences agonizing contractions which in turn help in the dilation of the cervix.
When the uterus contracts the baby is pushed down the birth canal. Women who are first-time mothers are usually quite apprehensive and fearful about the stages of labor. Lack of awareness about the process makes it even more fearful for most women. Awareness about the process of labor makes a woman better equipped with the knowledge to handle and cope with each phase of labor during pregnancy. The process of labor is broadly segregated into three different phases; the first phase persists for the longest time.
Below is a summary of what to expect in each stage of labor and how to cope with it. It might help you in dealing with the physical and emotional ramifications of the phases of labor. Moreover the pointers explained below might ease your anxieties and worries associated with the process of delivery.
First Phase of Labor
On the completion of first 37 weeks of pregnancy, the first bouts of contractions kick in. Usually the contractions experienced during this period are false contractions, also termed as ‘Braxton’ or ‘Hick’ Contractions. Nonetheless it is crucial that you time the contractions so that you are aware of their frequency and intensity and know exactly when to go to the hospital. First-time mothers might experience extended contractions spread over 10-20 hours. For women who have already given birth to a child, the subsequent labor periods are shorter.
Mild contractions mark the starting of Early Labor. During this time, the contractions are mild in their intensity and occur within a time gap of 10-15 minutes. Afterwards the time gap shortens and contractions are felt within a time gap of 30-40 seconds. During this period, the dilation of cervix takes place and a dilation of up to 4 centimetres is normal during this phase. Usually the contractions during this phase are similar to menstrual cramps and are often accompanied with backache. If the contractions are far and mild in intensity, there is no emergency to rush to the hospital. In many cases, expectant women do not feel much uneasiness during early labor and are able to perform their daily chores easily.
Nonetheless, you should be aware that soon the pain would increase and you would require your entire energy during the final labor and it is best to relax and take rest to conserve your energy. In order to relax, just lie down or take a gentle massage. Bathing in hot water can loosen your muscles and relax you. To ease backache, use cold-compression or heating pads. Eat light snacks like salads and fruits that are easy to digest and give you instant energy.
After the Early Labor, which is a prelude to the period of intense labor, begins the phase of Active Labor. This is the time when you realize that the journey towards the birth of your child is almost at its end. During this phase, the contractions increase in their frequency and severity. It is advisable to check-in a hospital by the time this phase begins. This phase can last for anywhere between a range of 4-8 hours. This is the phase when the baby starts its descent down the birth canal and the dilation of the cervix reaches 8 centimetres.
This phase is marked by physical exhaustion and pain. Practicing relaxation techniques like deep breathing or calming processes can help you deal with the pain. However if the pain is becoming unbearable, you can ask for medications or an epidural to ease the pain. After this phase, begins the Transition Phase which is characterized by frequent contractions within a time gap of 2-3 minutes and these contractions might persist for a minute. The dilation reaches its maximum to a point of 10 centimetres.
Post this, the mother is asked to push the baby. Pressure can be felt in the rectum area which is quite similar to the pressure felt during bowel movements. If the cervix has not dilated up to 10 centimetres, the health care provider might advise against ‘pushing’ the baby. Taking an epidural during this phase makes it easier to deal with the uneasiness and the pain. Women, who choose to deliver the baby using natural child-birth options, find this phase extremely challenging and agonizing.
Second Phase of Labor
When the cervix dilates fully, the mother is asked to push the baby out of the birth canal with each contraction. While pushing, taking deep breaths helps in relaxing the body. Some women might have to change their positions like squatting, sitting, etc. to know the position which makes it easier to push. As a mother pushes along with the contractions, the baby moves down the canal. Baby’s head appears first and then with each contraction, the entire body of the baby comes out. Once the baby is out, his/her nose and mouth are cleaned to remove amniotic fluids.
Third Phase of Labor
When the baby comes out of the canal, the contractions cease and the placentae is removed. The mother is kept under close observation for the next 24-48 hours, depending on her condition. A gentle massage of the lower abdomen can give relief to the mother. Your little angel is now out in the world and you can hold him/her in your arms and feel the joy of being a mother.