Labor is one of the most natural human experiences. Women have been doing this for centuries. In 2021, there were approximately 11,000 births per day. And yet, labor remains one of the scarier experiences for some women. For most, it’s the fear of the unknown that makes the idea of labor scary.
As a first-time mom feeling anxious about labor, you can relieve your worries if you’re equipped with information on what to expect. Today, we’re doing just that. We’re sharing all the basics of labor to ensure that you’re more knowledgeable and relaxed when you deliver your little one.
As OB/GYNs, we categorize labor into three main stages – dilation, birth, and delivery of the placenta.
The first stage of labor occurs when you start feeling consistent and persistent contractions. They get stronger, more intense, and more frequent. The cervix also starts to open and soften. It thins out, and your baby moves into the birth canal. This stage can be subcategorized into two phases – early labor and active labor.
- Go for a walk
- Take a shower
- Get into a warm bath
- Listen to relaxing music
- Practice the breathing and relaxation techniques you learned in your child birthing classes
- Change your position
- Get some rest
- Change positions
- Use the peanut ball
- Sit on the yoga ball
- Get into the bath or shower
At this stage of your labor, you are 10 cm dilated. You’re feeling pressure and the urge to push. Many women love this stage because they’re getting one step closer to meeting their baby, and they feel more proactive.
There’s open glottis pushing and closed glottis pushing. A lot of first-time moms need to bear down to protect their pelvic floor. Other women can breed the baby down. So, it’s important to try and find what works best.
Some people like pushing on their side, whereas others like to be on their hands and knees. A lot of times, we’re delivering on the back. Some people prefer a squatted position. Your pushing position will depend on what you’re comfortable with and whether you’ve had pain medicine.
Moms who get an epidural may have less mobility, meaning they may have to bear down more. Typically, we will have you bring the baby to the perineum to let it stretch. So, it’s very important to listen to your provider so that you hopefully don’t tear.
Once the baby’s head is out, it may require a little suctioning at the perineum. We use a little bump suction if needed. The shoulders and body typically easily come out after. Then, the baby comes to you.
In our practice, we do a lot of delayed cord clamping when mom and baby are doing fine. The baby can lay on you with the cord still intact, especially if you’re not doing cord blood collection. This will get that nutrient- and oxygen-rich blood to the baby. It also increases the baby’s iron store and reduces their risk of getting anemia.
After the delivery, most moms are shocked and in awe. So, we allow you to enjoy the moment and feel empowered that you actually did that.
Once the cord stops pulsating or is clamped and cut, we look for signs of placental separation. Typically, there’s a gush of blood, the cord lengthens, and there’s a rise in the uterus. That’s usually a sign that the placenta is separated.
When you can feel the placenta in the vagina, we may have you bear down to deliver it. Once the placenta separates, we must make sure you’re bleeding. We make sure that your bleeding is well-controlled and your uterus is clamped down through a fundal massage.
A lot of moms will then try to get the baby to latch. Breastfeeding the baby early will also allow the uterus to contract and control bleeding. One of the initiatives by the state of Florida is to give Pitocin after delivery to prevent postpartum hemorrhage.
This stage encompasses the postpartum period. The bonding stage includes making the sure baby can latch, as well as managing all endorphins and hormones. If there’s tearing or laceration, your provider will ensure that you’re well anesthetized. If you didn’t have an epidural, we use a local anesthetic before repairing any type of laceration.
My name is Delisa Skeete Henry (MD), and I am a board-certified OB/GYN. I’ve been practicing in South Florida for 20 years. You can contact our team at Serene Health here: https://skeetehenryobgyn.com/contact/ for a consultation. Be on the lookout for our Facebook Lives https://www.facebook.com/SereneHealth4U every Thursday, where we answer all your reproductive health questions.