Giving Birth & Arrival of the New Baby
Approximately forty weeks into your pregnancy, or 38 weeks after conception, your baby might be about 450 to 500 millimeters long and weigh 2,900 grams or more. Remember: healthy babies come in different sizes!
Do not be alarmed if your due date comes and goes and nothing happens. It is just as normal to deliver a baby a week or two late — or early — as it is to deliver on your due date.
When the early signs of labour have just started, you may experience mild contractions which may increase slightly in intensity. These early contractions may last up to 30 or 45 seconds. For some people, they may be shorter while for others, the contractions may be regular or not so regular.
You may feel them at intervals of 20 minutes. The intervals between each contraction will keep reducing until they become fairly consistent with no interval or space anymore. This pattern described here may vary from one woman to another, depending on each woman’s ability to feel or bear pain. During early labor you also might experience any of the following labor signs:
- Backache (constant or with each contraction)
- Menstrual-like cramps
- Lower abdominal pressure
- Indigestion or diarrhea
- A sensation of warmth in the abdomen
- Blood-tinged mucous discharge (also known as bloody show or The Show)
- Rupture of the amniotic membranes (i.e., your water will break), though it's more likely to happen sometime during active labor. In some cases, some women’s sack may have to be helped along (manually broken) by a doctor.
Depending on the kind of person that you are, you may feel excitement, relief, anticipation, uncertainty, anxiety or even fear when it comes to giving birth. You might be relaxed and chatty or tense and afraid. All of these reactions are normal. It is important to try to relax as much as you can during the early phases of labor — you will need to save your strength for later on. You will need it.
Try not to feel anxious so you do not use up all your energy. However, If you can not help feeling anxious, here is what you can try: At night time, try to get some sleep (when your contractions start coming persistently, you will not be able to). If you can not, get up and try to distract yourself. Cook a few more dishes to add to your freezer stash, fold some baby clothes, do the rest of the laundry. In the day, go about your usual routine, or try taking a walk (which might even kick up the contractions a notch).
Keep an eye on contractions. But do not worry about obsessively timing them at this point (you will just get bored and frustrated). Instead, check periodically to see whether they are getting closer than 10 minutes apart. Urinate often. Use the bathroom often — a full bladder can get in the way of labor.
The amniotic sac is the fluid-filled membrane surrounding your baby. This sac will almost always rupture before the baby is born, though in some cases it remains intact until delivery. When it breaks, it is called the water breaking. In most cases, your water will break before you go into labor or at the very beginning of labor. Most women experience their water breaking as a gush of fluid. It should be clear and odorless — if it is yellow, green, or brown, contact your doctor right away.
The active phase of labor and baby delivery usually lasts from two to three and a half hours (with, again, a wide range considered normal) as your cervix dilates to 7 centimeters.
Your contractions will grow more concentrated and increasingly more intense (in other words, painful). As they become stronger and longer (typically lasting 40 to 60 seconds, with a distinct peak halfway through) and more frequent (coming every three to four minutes, though the pattern may not be regular). You can expect to feel any or all of the following:
- Increasing pain and discomfort with contractions (you may not be able to talk through them now)
- Increasing backache
- Leg discomfort or heaviness
- Increased or larger amounts of bloody show
With fewer breaks in the action, there is less opportunity to rest between contractions. Emotionally, you may feel restless and find it more difficult to relax, and your concentration may become more intense as you become absorbed in your labor efforts. You may begin to feel less confident as you get more and more impatient or you may feel excited and encouraged. Whatever your feelings they are normal — just get ready to start getting “active.” It is all about your comfort now, so:
- Ask for help.
- Stay hydrated.
- Ask for a snack.
- Stay on the move if you can. (Climb stairs, take short walks, dance etc)
- Urinate periodically.
During transitional labor and baby delivery — the last, most intensive phases of labor — your cervix will dilate (expand) from 7 to its final 10 centimeters. Fortunately it is also the shortest, generally lasting from 15 minutes to an hour (though it can sometimes take up to three hours).
During phase 3, the intensity of your contractions picks up. They may become very strong and 60 to 90 seconds long, and with very intense peaks that last for most of the contraction. Some women, particularly those who have given birth before, may experience multiple peaks. Because they are spaced only about two or three minutes apart, it may seem as though you barely get to relax before the next contraction begins.
During transition, unless you are numbed by an epidural or other pain relief, you may feel:
- Strong pressure in the lower back and/or perineum.
- Rectal pressure, with our without an urge to push or move your bowels.
- An increase in bloody show as capillaries in the cervix rupture.
- Feeling very warm and sweaty or cold and shivering.
- Crampy legs that may tremble uncontrollably.
- Nausea and/or vomiting.
- Drowsiness between contractions.
- A tightening sensation in your throat or chest.
- Fatigue or exhaustion.
This last of the three stages of labor is a physically demanding and draining time. You may feel exhausted, frustrated, impatient, disoriented, restless or overwhelmed. Hang in there, though — baby’s almost here! By the end of this phase, your cervix will be fully dilated and it will be time to begin pushing baby out. Try to focus on how far you have come.
You may now feel relieved that you can start pushing (though it is totally normal to feel embarrassed, inhibited, scared or even frustrated, if it is taking longer than you anticipated). It is time to get your baby delivered.
To get going, you will move into the pushing position of your choice and, following the instructions of your practitioner or the hospital or birthing center staff, you will push at regular intervals, usually three times with each contraction, or as you feel the urge. You might want to rest for one contraction if you are getting tired.
Here are some pushing tips:
- Push as if you are having a bowel movement (Like you are getting the poop/stool/excreta out). Tuck your chin to your chest. If you are propped up on your back, make sure you put your chin (jaw) to your chest to push. This will help you focus your pushes to where they need to be.
- Stay focused. Maintain control and try to avoid frantic or desperate pushing, too — you do not want to push with your upper body or strain your face (this could actually leave you with black or bloodshot eyes or bruises on your face — not the best look for those first photos with baby).
- Change positions. Sometimes, if the pushing is not moving your baby down the birth canal, it may be helpful to change positions.
Trust your instinct. Take a few deep breaths while the contraction is building so you can gear up for pushing. As the contraction peaks, take a deep breath and then push with all of your might — holding your breath or exhaling as you do... whatever feels right to you.
- Rest between contractions. You'll need to conserve your energy and rest up for the next round — pushing is hard work!!
- Stop pushing as instructed. Your practitioner may suggest you stop pushing for a couple of contractions so you can regain some strength or to keep baby’s head from being born too rapidly. If you are feeling the urge to push, pant -breath fast or blow out air instead.
- Keep your eye on the prize! All this work is so hard but will be worth it once you hold your baby in your arms!!