The process of childbirth is divided into 3 stages. The length of these stages varies. The first stage is by far the longest, lasting many hours. The second stage lasts usually about an hour and rarely more than 2 hours, and the third stage lasts only a few minutes, rarely longer than 20 minutes.
The first stage of labor
Labor is usually signaled by contractions starting from the small of the back and moving around to the front of the stomach just above the pubic bone. When you have several contractions in regular intervals of 20 – 30 minutes, you are sure to be in labor and should head to the hospital.
As labor advances, the contractions become more frequent and shivering without feeling cold may occur. However, one should avoid pushing until the doctor announces that the cervix is fully opened and time has come for pushing the baby out.
The second stage of labor
In this stage regular waves of contractions pass from the top of the uterus to the bottom, propelling the baby down the birth canal. They increase in frequency until at the end of labor they come every other minute. With each contraction, the woman should take a deep breath and push steadily.
When the baby is almost ready for delivery, the woman might feel some discomfort in the bottom of the vagina as it is stretched. However, she should not fight against this but allow the baby out. After the baby is delivered, the umbilical cord is cut to separate the baby from the mother.
The third stage of labor
Even though the baby has been born there is still a final stage of labor, which occurs when the placenta and membranes are expelled. This is usually done by the doctor or a midwife.
Ways of relieving labor pain
Labor is a painful process and there are various ways of giving relief to a woman in labor. The simplest is a painkiller injection administered in the first stage of labor which may take 20-30 minutes to work. In some cases a local anesthesia may be administered through the back into the area around the spine from where the nerves flow into the uterus.
The third most commonly used method of pain relief is the inhalation of nitrous oxide and oxygen, however, this method is most effective in the second stage of labor and can be self administered by the woman.