Information & Advice
Mum-of-two Carrie says
"With both my boys – born two years apart - I went into labour at 2am after just two hours sleep, and although both labours were really different, they were both born a few minutes after 3pm – talk about a predictable body clock!"
You've carefully carried your little bundle of joy for nine months (maybe more, maybe less), but now it's time for the real labour of love – giving birth! If it's your first baby then you're probably wondering what to expect, and are maybe even a little apprehensive – which is totally natural. Hopefully you'll be reassured to know that the body is an amazing thing – many women say that when the time comes their body seems to take over .
Information might help take away some of the doubt: If you've been for ante-natal classes then you'll already be armed with lots of useful information and we're also here to take you through all the different signs of labour and what to expect every step of the way. Add this to all the support you've already got from friends and family and you won't be doing this alone!
The tell-tale signs of labour
There are four main signs of labour, but the two biggest tell-tale signs are contractions and what's called a "show", which is a sign your body is preparing for labour – and your body is certainly about to put on the performance of its life to help you deliver your baby.
Your body may have already given you a little clue about what contractions feel like in the form of Braxton Hicks, which are pain free and known as practise contractions.
A contraction is simply when your womb gets tight and then relaxes: some people liken it to a strong period pain to start with. However when they become a little more painful and last more than 30 seconds and begin to become regular in their pattern, it's likely that labour has started. As labour gets going contractions become longer, stronger and more frequent.
When your contracts last -60 seconds and come every five minutes you should call your midwife or hospital for advice.
While you're pregnant there is a plug of mucus in your cervix, helping protect the baby. When your body is preparing for labour the plug can pass away and this is known as the "show". A show can start two weeks or two days before labour, or even not until during your labour. It's perfectly normal for this to be pink as it is blood-stained. It can be a sign that labour is about to start, or it may not be a few days yet. Not every woman has a "show" before labour so there's nothing to worry about if it doesn't happen to you.
When it's time for your baby to be born, the amniotic sac of fluid that your baby has been growing in, breaks and the fluid comes out. This is your waters breaking.
Most women's waters break during labour, but it can also happen beforehand. For some women it's just a trickle, but for others it rushes out and you can't control it. You can be prepared for this by carrying a sanitary towel or incontinence pad with you and putting a plastic sheet on your bed.
If your waters break before labour starts, phone your midwife or hospital for advice as your baby is no longer protected by the amniotic sac and there is a risk of infection.
You may notice backache as you are about to go into labour or that achy, heavy feeling that some women get when they have their monthly period.
The three stages of labour
You may not know this but there are three stages of labour:
For your baby to be born, your cervix needs to be fully dilated, to about 10cm. If you've ever had a cervical smear this may seem like a "mission impossible" for your body to do this, but contractions help to soften the cervix so it can gradually open.
We know you'll probably want to get it over with as quickly as possible and hold your new baby in your arms, but the process of softening can take many hours before you're in ?established labour', which is when your cervix is dilated more than 3cm. Don't be surprised if you get sent home if the hospital finds you're only a couple of centimetres dilated.
Here's what else to expect in the first stage of labour:
By now the longest stage of your labour is over, your cervix is fully dilated and you're ready to deliver your baby. This is where the hard works really begins, but hopefully not for too long!
Once the midwife can see the baby's head you'll be asked to stop pushing and to give quick, short breaths so that the head can be delivered slowly and gently.
At this stage it will help you to really listen to your midwife who will talk you through the best way to deliver your baby. You might see women in films screaming at this stage – and you might feel like doing that too – but if you can focus your energy into a deep push, it will be a much better use of your energy!
You've given birth to your beautiful baby, but it's not all over just yet! In the final stage, further contractions (usually pain free, you'll be pleased to hear!) help to push out the placenta and you'll be offered an injection to help speed this up. After some little skin-on-skin time, your baby will be checked, weighed, offered a vitamin K injection and given a band with their name on.
Now, all that's left for you to do is to enjoy some bonding time with your new born bundle of joy. Make this most of this precious time – you deserve it!
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