You are nearing the end of your pregnancy, and you begin experiencing sudden cramping and back pain. You look down, and you notice your pants are wet. The next question you may be asking yourself is, “Am I in Labor?” Based on these symptoms, you should get to the hospital immediately. You are probably going into labor. Every woman has their labor experience. Some women have to be induced, and others will have their child in a matter of minutes. Whatever the case is, it is important to be aware of the symptoms of labor and be prepared to give birth.
Labor is a process. Some women go into labor immediately while others have to be induced. Labor happens in stages. For some women, those stages just occur much faster. Every pregnancy is different, and labor with your first child may be totally different from labor with your second child. You cannot listen to everybody’s experience because it may scare you away. Going into labor can be nerve-racking, especially if it is your first child. You do not know what to expect. Understanding the stages of labor will help you become more comfortable with the process.
Signs of Labor
Now that you have an understanding of the signs labor, it is good to know the stages of labor. Weeks before labor you may notice the baby drop. The baby will move down toward the vaginal area. This position makes them ready for delivery. Your cervix is also beginning to dilate; you may have some discharge occurring. Your muscles and joints are beginning to stretch to prepare for labor, which causes cramping and back pain. You may notice some diarrhea as well as a desire to sleep more. Right before labor, you will lose your mucus plug. Contractions are now increasing, and your water may break. Now it is time to prepare for your newborn.
Labor happens in three main stages.
First Stage of Labor
The first stage of labor is divided into two components: early labor and active labor. The early stage of labor begins with contractions. These contractions affect the cervix. As your contractions increase, the cervix continues to thin out as well as open up. The thinning and dilation of the cervix may make you feel uncomfortable. Active labor is similar to early labor except your contractions become more intense. If you are at a hospital, the doctor is probably asking how far apart are your contractions. They ask because the more contractions signify that you ready to give birth. At this time, your contractions should be much stronger, longer, and closer together. This process can be very difficult.
Second Stage of Labor
The second stage of labor is the actual birthing process. The cervix is now fully dilated. This stage is called the pushing stage. The pushing stage is like the last lap of your mile. You are tired and ready to finish, but you can now see the finish line. All the breathing techniques you may have learned previously are now coming into play. Breathing is important during birth. It is also important to push out and not tighten your muscles holding the baby inside of you. It is good to note this is the process during a vaginal birth. If the birthing process is taking too long, or the child’s heart rate is dropping, a C-section may have to be done. In a C-section, instead of going through active labor, the doctors deliver the baby by making a cut in your stomach.
Third Stage of Labor
Once you finish the active labor stage, you enter the third stage of childbirth. The third stage of childbirth is where you birth the placenta or what is known as the after-birth. Delivering the placenta is not the same as giving birth to a child. You will have a few contractions which help separate the placenta from the uterus wall. Once separated, you will push one time and expel the placenta. This part of the labor process is pretty quick and painless. Now the uterus will become firm; this is important because bleeding occurs due to the placenta being removed from the uterine wall. If the stomach does not tighten, the blood will not clot, and you will continue to bleed.
The stages of labor take different amounts of time. You may know some women who are in labor for five minutes and others who are in labor for 22 hours. Knowing the signs of labor will make you more ready for delivery. Pay attention to the loss of your mucous plug. Also, monitor your contractions. If contractions are getting closer together and becoming stronger, you are going into labor. If may seem scary at first but do not be afraid. With great doctors and nurses, everything will go off without a hitch. The best thing is not to focus on the labor and delivery process but to focus on the gift of a newborn child.
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