It’s inevitable. You’re a little bit afraid to give birth. This is your first child and while the miracle grows inside you, you’re obsessing over the concept that one day in the next several months, you’re going to have to push that baby through a hole the size of, well… we all know where this goes.
There are obviously fears associated with these thoughts. “Giving birth is a highly emotional and largely uncontrollable event, so it’s important to discuss what you’re afraid of beforehand,” advises Jenny Keller, M.D., director of the residency program in Obstetrics and Gynecology at George Washington University in Washington D.C. Furthermore, a study in BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth suggests that chatting with your doctor can make you more at ease and upbeat – and approaching labor with a positive attitude can help you feel less pain, avoid Cesarean sections and feel satisfied with your experience.
It is stated that because you have never experienced labor before, you may find it difficult to know you are in labor. Most suggestions for first time mother revolve around the idea that you should contact your physician or midwife to discuss your labor symptoms before heading to the hospital
First – consider that during pregnancy, your baby is surrounded and cushioned by a fluid filled membranous sac called the amniotic sac. At the beginning of or during labor, your membranes will rupture – also known as your water breaking.
There is a likely chance that you might be sent home during early labor in your first pregnancy. It is not uncommon for first time mothers to make more than one trip to the hospital. The following activities could be helpful if you are in early labor – things that will keep you calm:
- drinking fluids
- listening to music
Some first time mothers will experience whats called “Prodromal Labor.” This is defined as ‘pre-labor’ and consists of the early signs before labor starts. It is the body’s preparation for real labor. Prodromal labor has been misnamed as ‘false labor’ at times because it begins much like a traditional labor but does not progress to the birth of the baby. This occurs with minimal to no change in cervical dilation and it is especially important to alternate rest and activity. Be sure to keep hydrated and maintain your physical activity with light, high energy food.
It is important to remain calm and relaxed throughout labor and delivery. According to Sutter Health – pain is obviously a part of labor and every woman is unique in the level of pain she can tolerate. Women also have varying success with the kind of activities or interventions that can help decrease their labor pain and increase their comfort – thereby keeping the mother relaxed and free of anxieties.
- showering or other water therapy
- keeping a restful environment in your labor room (quiet, low lighting, soothing music)
- using various positions (all fours, sitting, kneeling, squatting)
- light massage of the abdomen
- application of a cold compress
- using Relaxation/Breathing techniques
Some women will opt for medication once labor gets into full swing. It is common for a woman to think she will deliver her baby without medications but it is best to discuss various options with your doctor or midwife in advance, just in case.
You may be interested in Yoga, or not, before pregnancy – however, a small study in Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice found that prenatal Yoga practitioners reported less pain during labor. It is stated that the pairing of movement and breath builds endurance, teaches you to breathe deeply and helps you relax during discomfort.
Next up – Pushing
Once the cervix is fully dilated, the work of the second stage of labor begins – at the beginning, contractions may be a little further apart, progressing as the delivery moves forth.
It is stated that many women find their contractions in the second stage of labor easier to handle than the contractions in the active laboring because bearing down offers some relief. Others are said not to like the sensation of pushing.
Take note that with an epidural, the loss of sensation can blunt the urge to push, so you may not feel the urge to push. It is suggested that waiting a while may leave you less exhausted in the end, however, in many hospitals, it’s still routine practice to coach women to push with each contraction in an effort to speed up the baby’s descent.
Most likely, because this is your first baby, the descent through the birth canal will be gradual. Although, sometimes it is a rapid progression. It’s not unusual to use a variety of position during the second stage of labor – try different positions for pushing until you find one that feels right and is effective for you.
An episiotomy doesn’t sound very comfortable and luckily they are not very common in today’s delivery room practices. Accordingly, over the past ten years, there has been a national trend to avoid routine episiotomies – defined as a surgical cut made at the opening of the vagina during childbirth, to aid a difficult delivery and prevent rupture of tissues… Recent studies have shown that routine episiotomies have little or no medical benefit.
Beware that close to 70 percent of women will have a natural tear with the birth of their first baby. Such tears will usually involve less tissue and trauma than an episiotomy. This would be something else you should want to discuss with your doctor or midwife prior to going into labor.
Something that you may not have considered beforehand is the delivery of the placenta. The placenta is actually a flattened (temporary) circular organ in the uterus which nourishes and maintains the fetus through the umbilical cord. Of course, once the baby has been delivered, you won’t need the placenta anymore.
Just after giving birth, your uterus will begin to contract. The first few contractions are said to usually separate the placenta from your uterine wall. Once upon such, your doctor or midwife may ask you to push gently to help expel the placenta. Generally, one short push will do the trick and it is not supposed to be difficult or painful.
The delivery of the placenta is considered the third stage of labor and only takes about five to ten minutes.
Obviously giving birth is one of the most dramatic things your body can go through. You will likely be physically exhausted, very hungry and perhaps on a sort of ‘high’ afterward.
Keep fit throughout your pregnancy
“Pregnant women who stay in shape tend to have shorter labors,” says Tekoa King, a certified nurse-midwife and an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of California at San Francisco. “Fitness improves endurance, and if you’re better able to tolerate labor, you’re less likely to end up needing medical intervention.” Walk, swim or take a prenatal class during your pregnancy – this falls in line with the yoga we discussed earlier.
Plenty of doctors recommend enlisting good support for your labor and delivery. Likely you have a partner that will be there to help, but it’s always good to have additional help. According to an analysis of clinical trials published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, women who had continuous care provided by a doula (a person trained to support a laboring mother and her partner) were 50 percent less likely to need a Cesarean Section and 30 percent less likely to need pain medication, and they experienced a labor 25 percent shorter in duration than those without this care.
Some other things to consider
Your baby may arrive at least two weeks before or after the due date. Only a small percentage of babies (about 5%) are born on their due date. Remember that pregnancy is measured from the date of your last period and the conception could have occurred at variable times over the weeks after that. You should realize that most babies are usually born between thirty seven to forty two weeks of pregnancy. This is generally right about nine months.
Finally – it is stated that during a first time birth, a first labor usually lasts 16 hours on average, however this CAN vary tremendously. Labor, as we have discussed, is divided into three stages. Stage One – where the cervix dilates is also divided into three substages – early, active and transition…
Be wary of these tips as you enter your first labor and delivery. Remember to try to alleviate anxiety. It’s not good for you or your baby, and not likely to benefit the partners you have chosen for the delivery room either.
Good Luck – you’ll do great!
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