Labor and birth of the baby is the effect of dilatation of the cervix, and contractions of the uterus and abdominal muscles. Dilation is the first stage of labor. In the second stage, strong expulsive efforts cause the advance and birth of the baby.
During your pregnancy, changes happen in your body to prepare for these events. The ligaments of your pelvis loosen to permit your pelvis to relax and allow your baby to come out. Other changes occur to adapt your body to accommodate childbirth. Despite these changes and modern medicine, it is unrealistic to aim for a childbirth without any discomforts.
Labor is said to begin when your uterus starts to contract regularly. In the days before the onset of labor, you may experience minor contractions that feel like tightening, and cause discomfort rather than pain. These contractions are important in aligning and positioning the baby for birth.
The first labor pains are grinding, scattered and irregular. Many women describe it as bad menstrual pains. The first labor pains are usually felt in the front site of the pelvis and groin. Pain is mainly caused by pressure on the abdominal and pelvic area due to powerful uterine contractions and stretching of the cervix, vagina and perineum. During labor, contractions increase in frequency and intensity and can become painful.
As labor proceeds, the pains start to appear in the abdomen. The cervix has to stretch to allow your baby to eventually pass through your birth canal. When the opening to the cervix is fully dilated, the second stage of labor – during which your baby is born – starts. As the baby’s head advances further, pains are commonly felt at the back, hip and groin area. When the baby’s birth is near, stretching of the perineum causes burning sensations. At this stage many women feel like they are going to burst. Majority of them, however, suffer only minor tears, if any, especially if good laboring positions and movement have been used to help the baby to rotate and find the easiest way out.
The baby passes through your birth canal and is born by a combination of the continuing contractions of your uterus, and your conscious effort to push your baby out by using the abdominal muscles. The physical and mental relief after vigorous laboring, and the ecstasy of getting your baby in your arms, are such a victory and pleasure that the last stage of labor – which is the birth of the placenta – is often unnoticed by the mother. As the placenta is much smaller than the baby is, and the birth canal is open, the uterine contractions push the placenta out easily.
We are so conditioned to expect pains in labor that its significance as part of the birth process is discounted. There is no need to automatically opt for epidural or — on the other hand — to give birth in severe pains without any labor pain relief. Unmanageable pain during labor and delivery is not normal or needed. Labor pains, when they are correctly managed, have an important part in assisting and guiding your body to give birth to a baby.
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