When it's time for you to have your baby, your body will work extra hard to do this. Nurses and a doctor or midwife will help you. Your partner or labor coach can also help.
Your body will do most of the work naturally, by having contractions. The muscles of your uterus squeeze in a powerful way. In your childbirth classes, you'll learn how to breathe during contractions. These special ways of breathing will help you get through the pain.
For most women, labor takes about 6 to 12 hours for the first child. It takes about 4 to 8 hours for later births. Labor happens in three stages.
During the first stage, contractions help open the entrance to the birth canal. Each contraction lasts up to 90 seconds. The contractions can be as much as 15 minutes apart. You'll have time to rest between them. Most women spend the early part of labor at home.
Once labor begins, don't eat much solid food. You can eat light foods for energy. Fruit juices, clear soup, and gelatin are all good choices.
As the first stage of labor passes, the amount of time between the contractions becomes shorter. When the contractions are five minutes apart, it's time to call your doctor or nurse. You'll probably have to go to the hospital. When you're in the hospital, you can ask to be given medicine if the pain is too much.
Important: If your labor begins three weeks or more before your baby is due, go to the hospital right away. The doctor may try to stop the contractions to give the baby more time to keep growing inside you.
The contractions will become even stronger and closer together during this stage. They'll come about every 2 to 5 minutes and can last about 60 to 90 seconds. The contractions will hurt more during this stage.
It may feel as if you need to have a bowel movement. But don't try to push until the doctor tells you it's time. If your cervix isn't open, your baby isn't ready to come out. After your cervix is open all the way, pushing will help the baby move down the birth canal.
Your baby's birth is the last part of Stage 2 -and it's usually the fastest part. Your baby's head will begin to show. Sometimes the doctor makes a small cut in the opening of the birth canal. This give the baby more room. You'll give some long, strong pushes. The doctor or nurse will help your baby come out. The doctor will clean out your baby's nose and mouth. Then he will clamp the umbilical cord. Baby will take it's first breath and may cry. The doctor may put the baby on your stomach or in your arms.
Don't worry if your baby doesn't look human at first. Baby may look a little blue and be covered in blood. Baby's head may look squashed but should return to a normal shape and eventually look human.
Labor isn't over when your baby is born. A few more contractions are needed to push out the placenta, or afterbirth. Usually it comes out a few minutes after the baby is born.
Your nurses will check you carefully for many hours after delivery. They will push hard on your belly to make sure your uterus is shrinking back to normal. They will also check to see how much you're bleeding. Your uterus will go back to its normal size in about six weeks. If you breastfeed, it will happen even faster.