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  Care For Placenta
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  Using a Doula

The Different Phases Of Pregnancy Labor

You spend nine months waiting for it. Finally, it’s time for delivery. But don’t get too far ahead of yourself – there's a little thing called labor that you have to get through before you can hold your new bundle of joy. As you approach the end of your pregnancy, it’s time to learn more about the three essential stages of labor and delivery. Here's what to expect.

The first stage of labor involves the complete dilation and effacement of the cervix. Y ou begin with what’s called the latent stage. Contractions are generally light, and far apart – perhaps 20 minutes or so. This stage of labor can stop and start over the course of several days, and you generally won’t experience much discomfort. In fact most women find that they can go about their daily activities or even sleep during this time. And unless you’ve been specifically instructed to do so, it’s not yet time to call your care provider. During this time, your cervix will efface – or become thinner – losing up to 80% of its thickness. In addition, your cervix will dilate – or open – up to about 3 centimeters. You’ll generally feel excited and upbeat, and may be quite happy and talkative during this stage.

Soon, however, things will change. You’ll feel less like talking and find that you need to concentrate during contractions to stay relaxed. The contractions will come more frequently – about 5 to 7 minutes apart – and last about a minute. You may doze or rest, but you probably won’t be able sleep. It’s generally safe to continue to eat and drink, but it’s probably time to place the call to your doula and/or health care provider.

If you’re planning a medicated delivery, it’s probably time to head to the hospital, or if you’re planning on an un-medicated delivery, you can probably stay home a bit longer. Of course, if you’ve chosen a home birth, you need not go anywhere. As much as you can, keep moving around between contractions and focus on relaxing completely during contractions. This stage is known as active labor. During this time, your cervix will reach 100% effacement, and you’ll dilate to between 7 and 8 centimeters.

The next step is one of the hardest, but usually one of the shortest – transition. This is the time when your cervix does its final work to dilate completely and the baby begins to move into position. During transition, the contractions come fast and hard – contractions may be 2 to 3 minutes apart and last up to 90 seconds. Some women shake, and some women throw up. It’s common for a woman in transition to feel completely overwhelmed and unable to carry on. This is when you need the support of your partner and doula. When transition is over, you may experience a break before the next phase of labor begins.

The next phase of labor is delivery of the baby. Most women – especially un-medicated women – will feel an overwhelming urge to push. Many women are happy when they get to this stage of delivery because instead of relaxing to avoid pain, they can now actively work to make something happen. This phase of labor begins when transition ends and ends with delivery of the baby – it can take as little as 10 minutes or as long as four hours. A lot depends on the mother's strength and position and the position of the baby. Pushing contractions generally come about every four or five minutes.

Once your baby has been born, you’ll generally have a short break before the placenta is delivered. During this time, you can hold your baby and nurse him or her. This will help your placenta contract and begin the final stage of delivery, which is delivery of the placenta. This may take place a few minutes after birth, or an hour or more after delivery is complete. One gentle push is usually all it takes for the placenta to be delivered.

Once the placenta has been delivered, your job of labor and delivery is over – but your job as a mom has just begun!

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