Hey mama! It’s almost your due date, which means you’re waiting for the day your baby girl or boy will be born. Pregnancy can be unpredictable and surprising, and this is something you’ve probably realized through the last 9 months.
Though you’ve been embracing the uncertainty throughout your pregnancy journey, now is the time that you may want some clarity. Knowing what to expect before giving birth may calm your nerves.
At the end of your third trimester of pregnancy, you will start experiencing signs that it’s time to give birth to your baby. Labor and delivery are the names used to describe the process that leads up to birth. Giving birth can be scary, painful, exciting, and all around very unpredictable.
What are the stages of labor?
There are four stages of labor, with the first one being the most extensive.
Stage one: Opening the cervix
You will experience tightening of the muscles in your uterus and then relaxing of the muscles in your uterus -- This is known as contractions. These contractions help thin out and open your cervix so that your baby can easily pass through the birth canal.
There are three possible phases during this first stage, depending on the activity of your contractions.
- Early -- Early contractions are usually in irregular patterns and don’t last more than a minute. This can last for many hours and maybe a couple days, which can be uncomfortable. This is the longest stage of labor and you will most likely be at home during this phase if you have a healthy term pregnancy.
- Active -- Contractions become stronger and more frequent, and will last about a minute. This is when you want to go to the hospital or birth centre depending on your birth plan. The pain of these contractions will most likely increase in pain and intensity, mostly in your abdomen or in your back.
- Transition -- During this final stage, your cervix would be fully dilated to 10 cm and your baby is ready to be born. Contractions become strong, regular, and frequent. They would last from 60-90 seconds and are around 3-4 minutes apart.
Stage two: Time to push!
During this stage, your cervix is fully dilated and your baby is ready to be pushed out. With the help of your contractions, you’ll be able to push your baby out of your uterus and through your vagina until you have fully delivered your baby. It sounds like a difficult job, but you will have the natural urge to push as your baby descends further. Delivery usually takes about an hour for first-time pregnancies, but things get quicker for subsequent deliveries which take about 15 minutes.
Once the baby is born, the first thing you’ll want to do is hold your little baby in your arms, keeping them close. This will allow for them to stay warm while also letting your doctor or midwife cut the umbilical cord.
Stage three: The placenta
Unfortunately, the pushing isn’t over after you’ve given birth to your baby. After your baby is delivered, it is time to deliver the placenta with the help of mild contractions. This will be very easy after going through the long delivery process with your baby -- delivery of the placenta will be a piece of cake.
What Are The Early Signs Of Labor?
Even though you have your expected due date, your baby is full of surprises and may want to come before or after this due date. This means you should be ready for any signs that your body is about to go into labor.
Some signs include:
- Baby “drops”: your baby will typically start to “drop”, or descend into your pelvis a few weeks before labor begins. Your belly will start to look lower and you will feel a sense of ‘lightening’ as your breathing will become easier. It’s not all easy, as you’ll have to use the washroom much more often.
- Your cervix dilates: Your cervix will start to open and thin out in the days or weeks leading up to your delivery. It’s a good idea to have your doctor track your dilation and effacement.
- Increased body aches: This is something that will be mostly felt if it is your first pregnancy, in addition to discomforts. You will experience cramps and pain in your lower back. This is because your muscles and joints are shifting, getting ready to deliver a baby.
- May experience diarrhea: Not only will you feel the urge to urinate more often after the baby drop, but your muscles are relaxing to prepare for birth, including your rectum.
- Constant body weight: You will start to see your body weight balanced as you won’t be gaining any more pounds. Some women even lose weight during this time, but don’t worry, it won’t affect your baby’s birth weight.
How Can You Control The Pain?
The pain you will experience during labor is the result of your contractions, and your muscles loosening. Common areas of which you will feel this labor pain is in the abdomen, groin, legs, and your back. Although every woman will have a different experience from pregnancy to pregnancy.
Some medicine-free ways to handle the pain you may feel during labor include:
- Exercise and going on walks
- Taking a warm bath
- Getting a massage
- Breathing and other relaxation techniques
- Moving around and changing your position
Some pain medicines to handle the pain you may feel during labor include:
- Analgesics: This will ease the pain, but won’t get rid of it completely. This can be obtained through a shot into a muscle or through an IV into a vein. Although this will help the mother get rid of nausea and drowsiness, it may have effects on the baby.
- Anesthesia: This is the most commonly known pain relief that pregnant women think of. It will block the feeling for specific areas of your body which will give you some pain relief for both vaginal births and cesarean birth.
- Tranquilizers: This drug won’t necessarily relieve the pain, but it will help to calm and relax the mother. It can help get rid of some of the anxiety you may be going through, but can also have negative effects on your and your baby.
Labor and delivery may happen any day for you, mama. So get prepared and expect it to be a part of your journey, which you’ll remember forever. Although it may be painful and a long process, it’s gonna be a good experience you’ll be able to share with your baby.