If you have had a healthy pregnancy and haven’t been advised to go for C-section already, you should mentally prepare yourself for a natural childbirth (normal delivery) through labor. For you to be vigilant about the signs of labor, you must know how it progresses. Here are a few nuggets of information for you:
First Stage: In this stage, the cervix which is the mouth of the uterus effaces which means becomes thin and dilates which means it opens. The cervix has to efface upto 100% and dilate up to 10 cms which is the size of the baby’s head.
Second Stage: In this stage, the baby makes its way from the uterus, through the birth canal to the outside world.
Third Stage: In this stage, the placenta is delivered. This is a very spontaneous action. Once the baby is born and the cord has been clamped the placenta automatically starts separating from the wall of the uterus and is delivered. This is also called the afterbirth.
For most first-time-moms, labor can last anywhere between 12 to 24 hours. Labor for most mothers mean contractions and contractions mean pain. Hence lets talk about the contractions. Contractions means that the uterine muscle is contracting and squeezing and while it is doing this action it pulls at the mouth which is the cervix causing the effacement and the dilatation. Most moms may not even realize when labor starts and will be 3 or 4 cms dilated when they reach the hospital. Once you reach the hospital, the resident obstretician or gynecologist, will examine you and confirm that you are in labor.
Labor and Pain medications
For most moms, labor may be manageable but for some labor may be long and painful. You may want to consider some pain relief option. The most favored option is Epidural Analgesia. This form of pain relief is administered in the lower back. It gives total or partial pain relief hence it can actually be subjective. Epidural is administered once the mom is about 3 cms dilated. It is not given early in labor since at that point labor can take a pause. These pauses can sometimes even extend into days. It is also not suggested to take the epidural once you are 8 cms dilated. After this point, you will dilate rapidly and labor duration is not too long.
Some of the benefits of epidural would include – pain relief which means that the mom is comfortable and can rest through labor. This helps her to welcome her baby with a smile. For some moms if labor is very long and painful, it can cause mental stress and this further slows labor down. This means that in some cases epidural can actually help to speed labor along.
Naturally there are some cons as well: Since epidural analgesia makes the lower body numb and dulls the nerves which carry the sensations to the brain, it makes it difficult for the mother to push effectively. She has to follow instructions while pushing and this is not very effective. It can cause a local infection and or a headache post childbirth if it punctures into the spinal fluid. Epidurals cause blood pressure fluctuations which requires additional monitoring. It also results in oedema post childbirth. Another drawback of epidural is that it reduces mobility and hence can lengthen labor. Since it does not enter the blood stream it does not reach the baby but it has been observed that the baby can be a little lethargic post birth for a short time and this can result in delayed breast feeding.
Over all it is recommended that you decide on whether to take an epidural or not based on how your labor is treating you. If labor is long and painful then go ahead and take it however if you feel that labor is manageable and you are able to cope with natural methods of pain relief then you can avoid taking the epidural. The ultimate decision lies with the Mom.