Labor & Delivery

The closer you are to your due date, the more troubled you may become. The anxieties and doubts that precede your labor are nothing sort of easy. To serve you the answers for the most common questions on labor and giving birth, all at one place, here is a helpful compilation.

Last Updated: Oct 22, 2020 11:29 GMT

Labor & Delivery
Labor & Delivery
What are the common signs of labor?

Mucus plug releases: The mucus plug that has been protecting your cervix may begin to come out all at once or little by little; you’ll see a glob of thick mucus if it’s the first case or tinges of vaginal discharge in your underwear, for the latter, over a period of weeks, days or hours. While this is a sure sign of labor, you cannot predict how far you are to labor.

Diarrhea: Diarrhea could be a lesser-known sign of labor. Though it is not one of the sure signs, several pregnant moms-to-be report to have had diarrhea a few hours or days before labor began. Perhaps, it is nature’s way to clean up the bowels before labor.

Frequent, stronger contractions: Intense contractions which occur every thirty minutes call for a close watch for true labor. With stronger contractions, you are getting dilated and when they get apart by only five minutes or closer, you are into active labor. And a sure signal to call your OB immediately!

Water breaks: Water leaking either as a sudden gush or a slow release in trickles, breaking of the amniotic sac needs to be immediately followed by labor. If your water breaks before going into labor, you may have to reach the hospital immediately in order to prevent infection. Your OB will do an examination to check the dilation and effacement of your cervix, depending on which, you may be asked to wait for labor to set, induction or call for an emergency.

 How to differentiate labor contractions from false labor?

Here are the marked differences between Braxton Hicks and true labor contractions:

Braxton Hicks Contractions

Labor Contractions

Occur at irregular intervals

Occur at regular intervals (Ex., every 5 minutes)

Not usually painful

Gets painful in time

Feels like contraction and relaxation of the pelvic muscles

Feels like tightening from the top of the uterus as though to push the baby through the birth canal. During a contraction, uterus gets hardened and gets back to normal in-between two contractions

With time, the intensity of contractions fade and do not get closer

Becomes increasingly stronger and closer, like from 5 minutes apart, to 3 minutes apart, to 2 minutes apart and so on

Subsides with a change in position or after peeing

Changes in position has no effect on the contractions

 

Stages of Labor

You have your first true contractions after what it seemed like an eternity or perhaps you have unexpected contractions all of a sudden one day. What is to come next? Read further for the stages of natural labor and birthing process:

First stage of labor

In the first stage, labor contractions begin and continue to get stronger. You are by most chance not required to drive to your hospital as soon as contractions begin. Don’t be surprised if you are asked to go back home and come later when the contractions are timed 3-5 minutes apart. With increasing contractions, your cervix begins to thin-out, also called as effacement. Your cervix starts to dilate from 0 centimeters to 10 centimeters which happens in three stages:

Early phase: In the early phase of labor, your contractions are timed 20 minutes apart and last for 30-60 seconds. This phase can last for around 6 hours or more for your first delivery and lesser for subsequent deliveries. Your cervix will dilate up to 3 or 4 centimeters.

Active phase: Your contractions get increasingly stronger in the active phase. The contractions occur 3-5 minutes apart lasting for 45-60 seconds. The active phase lasts for 3 hours or more and cervix will dilate up to 7 centimeters.

Transition phase: You might be in the hospital already by this time. Your contractions are intense in the transition phase, timed less than 2 minutes apart and lasting for 60-90 seconds. Transition phase can be as short as 10 minutes and sometimes longer for about 2 hours.

Second stage of labor

You begin to push your baby down in the birth canal. Contractions continue to occur though can be 3-5 minutes apart now. It usually lasts for 1-2 hours. Depending upon how wide your vaginal opening is giving space, you may have to push more or undergo episiotomy or switch to C-section if the baby is monitored to be distressed. At the end of this phase, however, your baby is out!

Third stage of labor

 

Labor doesn’t end with the delivery of your baby. Yes! The placenta which nourished your baby is still inside and has to be expelled out. Contractions begin soon after childbirth and placenta begins to separate from the uterine wall. To your surprise, you will have to push again to get the placenta out, though the third stage of labor usually lasts no longer than 20 minutes. 

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