- Labor has three stages
- The first stage again has three phases: Early, active and transition labor phases
- Contractions get stronger and frequent as labor progresses
- Support of midwife or family or partner is important to go through this pain
Labor often considered as the hardship before a gift in life. Yes, it is, of course, a hell of hardship a mother goes through during labor. The more it gets prolonged, the more is the suffering. Yet, a mother likes the pain, and the fruit is a sweet baby.
But, the labor actually has different stages based on which the child birth occurs.
Medically it is divided into three stages:
Stage 1 is the effacement and dilation of the cervix preparing for the childbirth.
Stage 2 is the period between dilation of the cervix to 10 cm and the delivery of the baby.
Stage 3 is the after birth, in which placenta and other fetal membranes were flushed out.
Even if it is a first-time pregnancy, the mothers somehow get to know the progression of labor and when to deliver the baby. It can be there inside somewhere, as it is a totally natural process to give birth to a child.
Still, it is good to know the exact progression of labor scientifically. It helps understand the process better. It also helps deal with the situation of intolerable pain.
Basically, the first stage has three phases, viz., Early, Active and Transition Phase. The labor pain starts with the Early Labor. The contractions usually begin slower with a gap of 5 to 30 minutes. Each contraction may last for about 30 to 45 seconds. During this phase, the cervix dilates to about 3 cm.
Early labor phase can last from 8 to 12 hours. The initial contractions would be mild and get stronger as it progresses. You may feel like menstrual cramps or pressure on the pelvic area as the contractions begin.
Sometimes, during early labor, the amniotic sac may break which is commonly called as water break. It can also happen before labor starts.
After the dilation of the cervix to 3 to 4 cm, the labor progress to the active phase. Early labor can be taken as a sign for the child birth. But the pregnant woman can stay at home during these contractions. But get moving, be active. Try to have some snacks and drink plenty of water.
But as the active labor begins, it’s time to head to your hospital or birth center or to call your midwife if it is a home birth. The labor starts to get intense with stronger and more frequent contractions. You may feel like taking a bath or walking or moving around. Do as you want to and urinate frequently. Also stay hydrated.
Active phase lasts for about 3 to 5 hours. The cervix will dilate to 7 cm during this phase. The contractions usually get severe with a gap of about 3 to 5 minutes.
The active phase is followed by the transition stage in which the cervix dilates to 10 cm thus preparing for the easy delivery of the baby. The contractions last longer for about 60 to 90 seconds with a gap of 30 seconds to 2 minutes. The frequent string contractions enable the movement of the baby through the vagina.
During the labor, the mother goes through a series of emotions. From intense pain to the excitement of giving birth to baby, firm support from the family, nurses or the midwife is inevitable. In some countries, Doulas give the essential support for the mother to overcome this stage.
Second Stage of Labor
The second stage is the most important, the child birth. As the cervix has naturally dilated to 10 cm, the head of the baby comes out in a flow. Generally, the second stage can last from 20 minutes to 2 hours. The mother experiences contractions lasting from 45 to 90 seconds in a gap of 3 to 5 minutes.
The mother will experience a natural urge to push for the movement of the baby. She feels strong pressure at your rectum and may go through unexpected bowel movements or urination. Eventually, as the mother push, the baby’s head start to come out through the vagina. Once the head comes out, it may go inside again, but act with the flow and make it happen. Follow the instructions of your health care provider.
Once the baby is out, there can be vernix coating (a cheesy substance that coats the baby while inside), lanugo (smooth hair on the baby’s body) and puffed eyes.
The baby has come out, but the task is yet incomplete. The placenta and other fetal membranes need to be flushed out from the uterus. After the child birth, the mother feels contraction again during which placenta starts to come out. It is the Third stage of labor.
Usually, it can take about 5 to 30 minutes to deliver the afterbirth. It may need an external pressure to come out for which umbilical cord may be pulled out slightly by the mid wife or health care provider. As the afterbirth is out, the mother will be observed for a few hours to examine the bleeding and other health parameters. Breastfeeding can be started according to the baby’s health and mother’s willingness.
The earlier you start the better it is for the mother and the baby. Breastfeeding soon after the delivery helps the shrinking of uterus back to normal.
Some tips for the by-standers during labor:
It can be your partner or any other family member.
The person with you can offer immense support to go through these phases and make the birth happen.
- Try massaging the back if the mother feels in comforting.
- Offer snacks or water when she feels like having.
- Give support through words and sharing dreams about the child to be born.
- Offer ice chips if it helps deal with the contractions.
- Back her to focus on the child birth and urge to push.
- She may get angry or emotional, but stay with her throughout the process.