Preparing for a normal delivery
During pregnancy, you will have plenty of time to prepare for childbirth. Below is a list of things to consider prior to delivery:
- Child birth classes
- Breast feeding classes
- Compiling a packing list for the hospital
- Preparing a birth plan
- Pain medication plan – choices and alternatives
- Selecting a pediatrician
At TMC nearly 75% of women experience normal, routine, vaginal deliveries.
Labor occurs in three stages. When regular contractions begin, the baby moves down into the pelvis as the cervix both effaces (thins) and dilates (opens). How labor progresses and how long it lasts are different for every woman. But each stage features some milestones that are true for every woman.
The first stage begins with the onset of labor and ends when the cervix is fully opened. It is the longest stage of labor, usually lasting about 12 to 19 hours. Many women spend the early part of this first stage at home. You might want to rest, watch TV, hang out with family, or even go for a walk. Most women can drink and eat during labor, which can provide needed energy later. Yet some doctors advise laboring women to avoid solid food as a precaution should a cesarean delivery be needed. Ask your doctor about eating during labor. While at home, time your contractions and keep your doctor up to date on your progress. Your doctor will tell you when to go to the hospital.
At the hospital, your caregivers will monitor the progress of your labor by periodically checking your cervix, as well as the baby's position and station (location in the birth canal). Most babies' heads enter the pelvis facing to one side, and then rotate to face down. As you near the end of the first stage of labor, contractions become longer, stronger and closer together. Remember what you learned in your childbirth classes and try to find the most comfortable position during contractions. Let your support person and your care team know how they can be helpful. Sometimes, medicines and other method are used to help speed up labor that is progressing slowly.
The most difficult phase of this first stage is the transition. Contractions are very powerful, with very little time to relax in between, as the cervix stretches the last few centimeters. Many women feel shaky or nauseated. The cervix is fully dilated when it reaches 10 centimeters.
The second stage involves pushing and delivery of your baby. It usually lasts 20 minutes to two hours. You will push hard during contractions, and rest between contractions. Pushing is hard work, and a support person can really help keep you focused. A woman can give birth in many positions, such as squatting, sitting, kneeling, or lying back. You might find pushing to be easier or more comfortable one way, and you should be allowed to choose the birth position that feels best to you.
When the top of your baby's head fully appears (crowning), your doctor will tell you when to push and deliver your baby. Your doctor may make a small cut, called an episiotomy to enlarge the vaginal opening. Most women in childbirth do not need episiotomy. Sometimes, forceps or suction is used to help guide the baby through the birth canal. This is called assisted vaginal delivery. After your baby is born, the umbilical cord is cut. Make sure to tell your doctor if you or your partner would like to cut the umbilical cord.
The third stage involves delivery of the placenta (afterbirth). It is the shortest stage, lasting five to 30 minutes. Contractions will begin five to 30 minutes after birth, signaling that it's time to deliver the placenta. You might have chills or shakiness. Labor is over once the placenta is delivered. Your doctor will repair the episiotomy and any tears you might have.
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