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Great Expectations – 47

Vaginal Birth

The frst stage of labor starts with the onset of labor and is completed when the cervix is completely dilated to 10 centimeters.

The frst stage of labor can take quite a long time, especially with a frst baby. It is not at all uncommon for the frst stage of labor to last 12 to 14 hours. That does not mean that you will be having continuous contractions for 14 hours. Do not try to fght these contractions by tensing your abdominal muscles. Your uterus is doing the work for which it was designed. Tensing muscles will only make the contractions feel worse. Try to RELAX even while you are having a contraction. Concentrate on relaxing your muscles.

The second stage of labor starts with the cervix becoming fully dilated and is completed with the birth of the baby.

The second stage of labor is much shorter than the frst stage. By now your cervix has dilated enough for the passage of the baby’s head and when the head has descended enough, you will be prepared for the birth of your baby. If your hospital has LDRP’s

(labor, delivery, recovery, postpartum) or LDR’s (labor, delivery, recovery) you will remain in your labor room for the birth. The contractions now are very close together and the baby is being pushed out. You may be “pushing” involuntarily.

It may feel like your bowels are moving, but do not worry about this. It is just the pressure of the baby’s head on the rectum. Each time you have a contraction, the baby moves farther and farther down the birth canal.

You may have heard a lot about episiotomies. An episiotomy is a surgical incision made in the perineum which is the space between the vagina and the anus. Although this is not a routine procedure, your healthcare provider will not know if you will need an episiotomy until the head is crowning. It is at this point when they will determine if one is necessary or not. Talk to your healthcare provider about the procedure and any concerns that you may have about it.

As you bear down, or push, the baby begins to appear. Finally, the baby is born. Any mucous or amniotic fuid

from your baby’s mouth and nose will be removed. Then your baby will take a breath of air and may begin to cry. A new little person is in the world! You may begin to cry also when you see your new little boy or girl. You may feel exhausted or excited; all your Great Expectations are fnally here!

The third stage of labor begins after the birth of the baby and is completed with the delivery of the placenta.

Your work is not totally over. The third stage of labor is the passing of the afterbirth, or placenta. This usually takes just a few contractions and takes only a few minutes more. Then it is time for some well-earned rest and bonding with your newborn baby.

Labor and Birth

The birthing process can take one of three courses: • Vaginal birth

• Vaginal birth after Cesarean (VBAC) • Cesarean birth

Each is described in more detail on the following pages.

Second Stage – Cervix is fully dilated

and pushing begins

Head is crowning

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