It’s been a long nine months, but it’s finally time to meet your baby. You’re full of emotions — excited to hold your baby for the first time, anxious about being prepared to bring your baby home and scared about giving birth. All of these emotions and feelings are completely normal, and we’re here to guide you through delivering your baby.
Your support person will be crucial as your labor nears, and especially as it begins. New mothers will feel overwhelmed, and we encourage you to rely on your support person so you can rest and relax as much as possible leading up to birth.
Most importantly, we want to remind you that you can do this. Your fears are valid, your anxiety is normal and we understand that this is perhaps the biggest day of your life. Everything is about to change — in a good way! And we’re honored to be a part of this exciting time for your growing family.
As your labor begins, it’s normal to feel a frenzy of emotions. You’ll be worried that you won’t remember the things you learned in your classes and suddenly feel very unprepared — even though you’ve had your bag packed for weeks. Take a deep breath. You are ready for this and you are strong.
During early labor, you’ll likely experience mild contractions that feel like a low-back ache or menstrual cramps. Some women report tightening or pressure in their pubic area — labor isn’t exactly the same for everyone. The amniotic sac may rupture (often referred to as your water breaking) and you may notice a pink mucous vaginal discharge, called “bloody show”. These mild contractions may not be regular, ranging from 5 to 15 minutes apart and lasting from 2 to 45 seconds.
It’s important that you rest — this is usually the longest phase of labor and it’s important that you conserve your energy. Try listening to music, watching a movie or playing a game.
How long does the first stage of early labor last? Latent labor can be intermittent at times, lasting for days. You may have heard other women talk about being dilated to one, two or three centimeters, sometimes for day. These women have prolonged latent labor. Ultimately, this stage will progress into more active labor, usually progressing over half a day, until three to four centimeters dilated. Early/latent labor can be more rapid in women who have had previous deliveries.
During active labor, the contractions become stronger and more frequent. This is when you should head to the hospital, if you’re not already there. Usually, they’re three to four minutes apart and 40 to 60 seconds long. The most intense part of the contraction is longer, making you increasingly uncomfortable. Most women are restless, unable to relax and often feel nauseated.
It’s important that you use breathing and relaxation techniques that work for you. Massage can help, along with focal points that can distract you from the discomfort. Try to not to focus on the next contraction as soon as one is over — relax and stay calm.
Make sure your support person stays close by. They can help you by brining you cool cloths, making sure you are hydrated and comfortable.
Active labor often lasts six hours or so, dilated from three to four centimeters to ten centimeters. A general rule of thumb is that you dilate one centimeter per hour during this stage. Active labor may be more rapid in women who have had previous deliveries.
This is the phase of active labor when you progress from eight to ten centimeters. It often lasts a few hours. During the transition period, emotions are intense. You may feel completely out of control, shaky and really hot or cold. You’ll be less aware of your surroundings, so it’s important that you rely on your support person.
Contractions are long and strong. They’ll be every one to two minutes and can last from 60 to 90 seconds. Typically, they peak very quickly and some may even have a double peak. For some women, the “bloody show” increases and the low back ache may persist or worsen.
SECOND STAGE OF LABOR
The second stage of labor is defined as the time between being ten centimeters dilated until
delivery of your baby. Pushing can take two to three hours, especially if this is your first delivery, but is often much quicker (around 15-20 minutes) with subsequent deliveries. Pushing can also take longer if you have an epidural. You don’t have to deliver or push laying down on your back. It is important to find a position that works for you, which we will assist you with.
The second stage requires lots of energy and is very exhausting, but usually passes faster than expected. Women who do not have an epidural in place, will feel an incredible urge to push once they are ten centimeters dilated. The discomfort felt with contractions will significantly reduce when you are pushing. Women who have an epidural in place may feel less discomfort at this point, but they may not be able to push as effectively. This is because they may not feel where to push. Therefore, we often allow and encourage patients to “labor down”, especially women delivering their first child. Laboring down allows contractions to move the baby further down the birth canal, so that pushing is more effective (and may be shorter).
Once the baby is delivered, we will place the baby directly into your arms. We encourage skin-to-skin contact for as long as possible. Your nurse or pediatric provider will evaluate the baby while he/she is in your arms. Your nurse will then assist you with latching/breastfeeding as soon as you are ready.
The placenta will deliver very shortly after delivery of your child. This only takes a moment, and you often feel much better after delivery of the placenta. Of course, we encourage a family member to cut the cord.
About 80% of first time moms are successful at having a vaginal delivery. This percentage is much higher if you have already had a successful vaginal delivery in the past. 20% of first time moms will ultimately require a c-section. It is important to note that everyone’s goal is a healthy mom and baby.
While it is our goal to facilitate the labor process to maximize your chance for a successful vaginal delivery, there are times where it is necessary to proceed with a c-section. Talk with your provider regarding these circumstances, as we want you to be informed. Also, stay tuned for future blogs for more details regarding c-sections and what we are doing to make them more baby (and mommy) friendly.
TAKING CARE OF YOURSELF AFTER DELIVERY
It’s important to take extra care of yourself after delivery. It takes the body six to eight weeks to return to its pre-pregnant state — and note, that doesn’t mean you’ll be back to your pre-pregnancy weight in that time frame. The phase after delivery is called the postpartum period — you’ll go through many changes emotionally and physically.
The main focus during the postpartum period needs to be taking care of your baby. However, we believe that it’s equally important to take care of yourself so that you can regain your strength. If people you trust offer you help, take it — you’ll need to sleep and ensure you get adequate nutrition.
If you’re breastfeeding, you’ll need to ensure that you’re eating enough to feed yourself and the baby. Mon General offers lactation consultants who can help you with breastfeed and explain nutrition for breastfeeding mothers. If you aren’t breastfeeding, you’ll still need to ensure you eat a healthy diet full of grains, vegetables, fruits, dairy and lean proteins to help your body recover.
How Women’s Healthcare of Morgantown Can Help
Women are extremely fertile after delivery, but your body is not ready to support another pregnancy. It’s important that you have a birth control method in place to avoid another pregnancy too soon after delivery. We can help you select the option best for you and your lifestyle.
We’re also here to support you leading up to your delivery and through your labor. We truly see being a part of your momentous and special day as an honor, and we love meeting the babies our caregivers deliver.
For more information on labor and delivery, download our free eBook — packed with important information that will help you prepare for the big day.