Preparing oneself for first childbirth is a very emotional and unique experience, which not only brings extreme joy to the family but also transforms a woman into a responsible mother. The very thought of expecting their first child, makes a woman feel both apprehension and joy at the same time.
Joy as they are finally going to experience the blessing of motherhood and fear because even they don’t know how their labor will unfold.
Will it be over in a few hours or will it prolong and cause strain on both their physical and mental well-being?
No one can predict the future but with better understanding and knowledge one can be better prepared for their first childbirth.
What is labor?
“Labor” refers to the process of delivering the fetus, membranes, umbilical cord, and placenta from the uterus. During this process, uterine muscles contract, opening the birth canal’s mouth with each contraction.
This allows the baby and placenta to come out through the birth canal. After Carrying the fetus for about 9 months in her womb with every possible precaution, she finally goes through labor to give birth to a child.
Duration of labor
Duration of labor varies. It’s not the same for all expecting mothers. On average, the duration of labor may last from 12-24 hours for first-time expecting women. Labor may become easier and comparatively of shorter duration in case of subsequent delivery.
Recognizing the Start of Labor
The Beginning of labor is an unpredictable process and very few percent of babies are born on their actual date of delivery. Expecting mothers can recognize the start of labor if they are educated properly on early symptoms of the start of labor. There is a feeling that the baby has moved down in the woman’s uterus. This is also called lightning. The effects of lighting are:
- There is a feeling of more pressure in the pelvis. The expecting mother feels lighter and breathing becomes easier as the baby is not putting pressure on the lungs.
- There is more need to urinate frequently as the baby presses upon the bladder. This also provides relief from heartburn.
- There is a more wet feeling at the opening of the birth canal due to the increased discharge of mucus through the vagina.
- As the sac of amniotic fluid which encloses the fetus breaks there is a gush of a large amount of fluid.
- The beginning of labor pains begins in the lower back and extends to the lower abdomen. These come at regular intervals and steadily grow in strength over time. As time passes they become stronger and come in shorter intervals.
The three stages of labor
There are mainly three stages of labor:
- Contraction of the womb i.e. uterus
- Delivery of the placenta
First Stage of Labor
The first stage of labor is also the longest stage of the process. During this stage, pregnant women start to feel persistent contractions which gradually become stronger as time passes.
Due to contractions the muscle of the cervix efface and dilate which allows the baby to move towards the birth canal.
The first stage is divided into the following:
In the early stage of labor pregnant women experience irregular contractions. Contractions soften and open up the cervix. During this stage, women might notice reddish-pink color vaginal discharge. This stage may last from a few hours to days.
During Active labor, contractions become relatively stronger. Due to vigorous contractions, the baby moves towards the birth canal as the cervix dilates from 6 centimeters to 10 centimeters. As time passes the pain and discomfort intensify and you may feel an urge to push. This stage may last from 4 to 8 hours or more.
Second Stage of Labor
At this point, the cervix has already dilated by ten centimeters, contractions are slower (coming after a time interval of two to five minutes and lasting between 60 and 90 seconds), and she feels pressure to push. The rest of the baby’s body will be delivered shortly after the crown appears. This stage can last from a few minutes to a few hours.
Third Stage of Labor
After delivering the baby the mother will experience contractions again, this time to allow the placenta ( an organ that develops during pregnancy and provides oxygen along with nutrients to the developing baby) to be delivered.
Delivery of the placenta requires a small push and is relatively less difficult. This stage may last from a few minutes to an hour.
How to prepare
Nowadays, there are so many medical facilities such as hospitals (government as well as private), and a large number of primary health centers working all across the country are available to educate pregnant women on how to prepare for labor.
As the date of delivery advances near, here are some tips for expectant mothers:
Stay active, and do not give up on moving around or exercising. Studies show that staying active during pregnancy may help in shorter and uncomplicated labor and this also limits the role of surgical intervention. As an expectant mother, you should always pay attention to your body’s requirements and limitations.
To figure out what type of exercise is suitable for you during pregnancy, consult with your gynecologist. Your gynecologist may advise you better about the time and duration of exercise pregnant women can practice without stress to their bodies too much. Always remember every woman’s body differs and if one type of exercise suits one expectant mother that does not mean it will also suit another.
Eat healthy, balanced, and nutritious food. Add vitamin D and K-rich food options to your regular diet as they help the body to prepare for labor. Avoid alcohol, and smoking, and limit your consumption of junk food.
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Read a lot!
Along with healthy lifestyle awareness is also an important part to prepare first child birth. In such situations getting educated about what to expect during this process helps in calming down nerves. Reading a lot to gather information from pregnancy books, articles, and blogs. Have a conversation with your gynecologist about all your queries and concerns. Knowing about what to expect helps you make informed decisions and prepare your mind at the same time.
Talk to other mothers
Reach out to other mothers and listen to their experience, that is how they dealt with all the emotional and physical changes in their bodies during their pregnancy. Take their experience as a way to enhance your knowledge, however, to fixate on it.
Everyone’s pregnancy journey is unique and different in their ways. During this duration, if one thing worked for one woman that doesn’t mean it will work for another woman.
Take examples of pregnancy cravings or morning sickness. Some might crave pickles while others might crave sugary stuff whereas some may struggle with unbearable morning sickness and others may not even show any sign of it. In such scenarios learning and listening to the experiences of elderly women in your house, especially mothers and mothers-in-law can be of great help to alleviate the misconception and fear.
Pain management options during labor
Labor is a very painful process. Women undergo an unbearable amount of pain during this time. Consult your gynecologist about your pain relief options. You don’t have to decide on an option immediately but having information beforehand helps in making well-informed decisions during D-day.
Communicate with your healthcare providers
Don’t hesitate to ask questions, seek your doctor to discuss all your worries no matter how silly they sound to you. The first few months of pregnancy are the most delicate, it is crucial during that time to take care of your body and follow special instructions.
Make a simple birth plan
Come up with a simple plan that summarizes your expectations of how your delivery and labor would go. Do not fixate on the birth plan, make it simple, and always be open to the idea that things can go differently from plan when D-day arrives.
Pregnancy is a wholesome journey mixed with certain degrees of trials and distribution. Your body is changing both emotionally and physically. Feeling a bunch of emotions is completely normal during pregnancy. Every pregnancy experience is unique, trust your instincts, and enjoy your experience.
Nidhi Bhardwaj is a content writer with a creative edge towards science. She is currently pursuing her MBA.
Her love for expressing via words has inspired her to venture into creative writing. She is intrigued to explore various unfamiliar fields and treasures of knowledge the world has to offer.
She desires to share her experience and learnings with readers from all walks of life.