The thought of a prolong period of extreme pain can cause apprehension and anxiety in a woman; and this is only natural. However when armed with accurate information about the process of labor a woman knows what to expect and anxiety can be curbed to a large extent.
It is important to remember that each woman and each of her labors will be different and difficult to predict. However, labor can be divided broadly into four stages –
Stage 1 of Labor
You may have one of several indications that labor has started – a bloody show with a thick, bloody discharge indicates that the mucus plug blocking the cervix has been dislodged, the ripening (thinning) and opening of the cervix, the breaking of waters (could be a trickle or it could be a gush) and contractions.
Early labor is said to have started when you start to feel mild to moderate contractions. They may last from half to one and a half minutes; and to begin with will be irregular and unpredictable.
Many women don’t feel very severe pain at this time and may feel up to doing regular stuff around the house, watch TV or even take a stroll. At this stage, keep relaxed, eat something light and keep changing positions.
Stage 2 of Labor
This is also known as active labor and the contractions now are stronger, longer and closer together also becoming predictable. This is possibly the most difficult part of labor and will be painful and many women find the need for anesthesia or pain medication at this time.
This stage of labor can stretch up to 8 hours. Try and get as comfortable as possible by using a rocking chair or a birthing ball, get a gentle massage in between contractions or take a walk. Concentrate on proper breathing and though you may feel like pushing at this time, it is best to wait until your health care provider tells you that you’re fully dilated and it is time to push.
Stage 3 of Labor
This part of labor when the baby actually makes an appearance, can last from a few minutes to several hours (it takes longer for first time mothers or those who have had an epidural). At this stage you push, try with different positions and soon you may feel the baby’s head between your legs.
The head is the largest part of the baby and the most difficult to deliver; once that is through, the rest is easier. After the baby is out, the doctor will cut the umbilical cord and clamp it.
Stage 4 of labor
The baby is out but it’s not over yet – the placenta is still to be delivered; which will take between 5 and 30 minutes. At this stage contractions are mild and the attention of mothers has already shifted to their babies so the delivery of the placenta is not something that most mother’s pay attention to.
The health care provider will make sure that the entire placenta is delivered and that nothing got left behind.
You are now probably utterly exhausted, even as you marvel at the new being you have produced.