Labor and Delivery

With the approaching of the ultimate terminal stage of pregnancy- the childbirth, the pregnant mothers are eager for the delivery of the baby. Several factors may help you in preparing for childbirth, including keeping up with antenatal visits, reading books about pregnancy, attending childbirth classes, discussing with others about questions you may have, etc. It is optimal to learn as much as you can about labor and delivery in order to minimize the risk of complications.

Signs of Labor and Delivery

It is hard to predict the exact time and specifics of labor – doctors may provide you a due date based on the history and findings of early sonogram but that is just for reference. Usually the labor commences at any time three weeks before the due date or around 2 weeks after the due date has passed. Signs below help with identifying if labor is in close proximity.    

  • Lightening

It is a stage marked by descent of fetal head in the pelvic cavity. Your belly may appear a little smaller and you may breathe a little easierdue to release of pressure from the diaphragm. When extra pressure is posed on bladder with fetal descent, you may feel a more frequent urge to urinate. Lightening usually occurs a few weeks or a few hours before labor.

  • Bloody discharge

This bloody discharge may be observed a few days before labor. The brownish or reddish discharge from cervix during terminal weeks of pregnancy refers to mucus plug that has previously sealed off the womb without being infected; hence minimize the risk of pregnancy.

  • Diarrhea

Recurrent episodes of loose stools reveal the beginning of labor in some cases (however it is important to differentiate diarrhea due to labor from other causative agents).

  • Membrane rupture

Fluid leaking or gushing from vagina indicates that amniotic sac’s membrane has been ruptured. Rupture of membrane is quickly followed by labor and eventually childbirth.

  • Contractions

When labor is near, it is common to experience periodic, irregular contractions. When these contractions occur more periodically (at 10 minutes interval), it is usually considered an indication for labor.

Here is a video helping you learn signs of labor and delivery in detail:

Stages of Labor and Delivery

Labor is categorized in three stages, and each features some milestones.

  1. 1.    First Stage

The first stage begins with onset of labor and finishes with the ripening of cervix. This is perhaps the longest stage of labor and typically 12 to 19 hours long. Most women spend the time at home. Some pregnant women eat and drink much during labor, which provides them sufficient energy in later delivery process. But it is imperative to understand that some doctors advise to avoid solid food during labor as a precaution; it is optimal to ask your doctor about consuming food and update the progress of labor while at home.

At the end of stage 1, you may feel that the contraction is longer, closer and stronger. Then, the relaxation and positioning tips can help. Seek the most comfortable pose during contraction.

Transition is a phase with most difficulties in the first stage, in which contractions become very powerful and fast. Many women at this phase felt nauseated or shaky. The cervix becomes fully dilated when it reaches to 10 cm.

  1. 2.    Second Stage

This stage consisting of pushing and delivering baby may take anywhere between 20 minutes to 2 hours. Pregnant mothers are advised to push hard on every contraction and take rest between contractions. When the head of baby fully appears, the doctor will guide the pushing. The doctor may perform episiotomy, a small cut to enlarge the opening of vagina, which is not applied by most women in delivery. Sometimes, suctions or forceps are also used to help the childbirth from pelvic outlet. After the birth, the doctor will cut the umbilical cord and monitor the baby before showing to you.

  1. 3.    Third Stage

This stage is about placenta delivery,which is the shortest one lasting 5 to 30 minutes. The contractions start in 5 to 30 minutes when you finish the labor, with message that it is time for delivering placenta. You may experience shakiness or chills. Labor is finished as soon as the placenta gets delivered. After that, the doctor will fix the cuts and the episiotomy tears.

How to Relieve Labor Pain

1.  Natural Methods to Relieve Labor Pain 

Natural Methods

Why and How

Take rhythmic breath

During contractions, breathing fully in slow rhythm releases tension. It is helpful to take quick breaths after every 2 to 3 seconds.

Focus on images

or objects

Focus yourself in anything that makes you happy like your partner’s face, any favorite object or any inspirational picture to occupy the pain detector. Imagine yourself at your favorite place, listen to your favorite song and try to relax yourself to decrease the pain.

Take a warm bath

Taking a warm shower reduces discomfort and pain, especially when sitting and performing a shower on back or abdomen. Warm water bathing relaxes you, additionally, speed up the process of labor.

Do some movements

Moving around is also optimal in this time. Lean, walk, rock, squat and sway, such positions can make you feel more comfortable.

Apply warm or

cool compresses

By placing a warm pack over groin, lower back, shoulders or lower abdomen during labor, the pain can be relieved. Ice filled latex gloves or cold pack also comforts you when placed on painful areas.

Try some massage and soft touch

Try some massage performed by your doula or husband with firm or light strokes with lotion or oil.

 

The following video shows how to relieve labor pain through massage:

2.  Medical Pain Management

According to the situation, there are various medications available that can help during labor and delivery for reducing pain. Discussing with the doctor about benefits and risks of medications is also recommended.

  • Analgesics

Pain medications can be performed in various ways. Consuming medication through IV (intravenously) or via shot into muscle may have a generalized effect on the entire body. Possible side effects in mother include nausea and drowsiness, which also works on babies.

  • Regional anesthesia

Most women consider this option to release pain during labor. This method blocks the feeling of pain and can be used in both cesarean and vaginal deliveries. Epidurals are local anesthetic agents that are provided during labor and delivery to relieve the pain below belly button (like the pain in vaginal walls). This medicine is inserted in lower back via thin catheter, which is commonly safe for the baby. However there are some disadvantages of epidurals. Sometimes, epidurals may decreases the blood pressure abruptly or create difficulty while urination. It also causes nausea, headaches and itching.

The following video show how the epidural works in labor:

  • Tranquilizers

These drugs are designed to relax and calm anxious pregnant women with no effects on pain release. However, they have minimal effect as a pain-relieving agent. Sometimes tranquilizers are used with analgesics on both mother and baby and that’s why simultaneous usage is not recommended. It is optimal to discuss initially with the doctor about risks of tranquilizers.

How Do You Feel After Delivery?

Before giving birth, a mother’s body undergoes several changes, likewise it does after delivery. Physically a mother may experience:

  • Breasts pain. The new mom’s breasts may get hard, painful and swollen for days. Because of producing milk, you may also experience sore nipples.
  • Episiotomy area pain. Stitches during episiotomy set difficulties for normal daily activities like sitting or walking. More pain will be felt when you sneeze,cough or laugh.
  • Hemorrhoids. These are swollen varicose veins present in the anal area. Most mothers require no intervention as these varicosities regress after delivery.
  • Constipation. After delivery mostly women experience difficulties in bowel movement for days. Episiotomies, sore muscles and hemorrhoids increase the level of pain during bowel movement.
  • Cold and hot flashes. Due to the changing hormonal levels and blood flow, most females will feel cold or hot flashes.
  • Incontinence. During delivery process your muscles may get stretched, especially after experiencing a long labor process. This may transiently affect the sphincters and lead to urine leaking while sneezing or laughing. It may also trigger difficulties in controlling bowel movements.
  • After pains. You may experience uterine contraction that is similar but less intense than labor pains for several days. These contractions occur because uterus is returning to its previous size. Mostly, contractions are felt while nursing baby.
  • Vaginal discharge. A female may experience bloody discharge that is usually heavier compared to regular period. Gradually, this discharge will fade to yellow or white and then diminishes within 3 or less weeks.

Emotionally a female may experience sadness, crying or irritability, also referred as baby blues. However if the problem persists, consult your doctor as this can be postpartum depression.