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Everything you need to know about Labor and Delivery

During vaginal childbirth, the first stage of labors lasts about 12 to 19 hours and starts when your baby settles lower into your pelvis. In response, your cervix begins to efface or become thinner and dilate or widen. During this time, you may feel strong regular contractions occurring every five to twenty minutes and lower back pain and cramping that doesn’t go away. You may see a brownish or reddish mucus discharge which could be the mucus plug at the opening of your cervix falling out. Your water may break which can either be a large gush of fluid or a continuous trickle. If you experience any of these symptoms contact your doctor or midwife to see if you should go to the hospital.

At the beginning of stage two of labor which can last from a few minutes to three hours. Your cervix is fully dilated to 10 cm and your baby’s head had moved beyond the cervical opening into your birth canal. During this stage, you’ll begin to push your baby out. You may instinctively push when you feel the urge or you may need coaching from your doctor, midwife or labor nurse as to when to push and when to rest. In most cases when you are in a normal delivery, your baby’s head will rotate to face your back. During active labor, your uterus is divided into an active segment that contracts pushing the baby downwards and a flexible passive segment that remains relaxed stretching to provide more room for the baby to pass through. In some cases, when the top of your baby’s head appears or crowns your doctor may make a small cut called an episiotomy to enlarge the vaginal opening. Then you’ll continue pushing your baby out. As your baby’s head passes through the birth canal, it molds into an elongated shape. An elongated head shape will resolve itself within a few days as the skull bones shift back into place. After your baby’s head exits the birth canal his/her head and shoulders will rotate to help the shoulders pass through the birth canal. Your baby’s shoulders are delivered one after the other to fit through your pelvis. Once the shoulder emerges the rest of your baby slides out easily. After your baby is born his/her umbilical cord will be cut.

In stage 3 of labor which may last five to 30 minutes, mild contractions will help push the placenta out of the uterus. In this stage, you and your baby may begin bonding through skin to skin contact and breastfeeding.