Now That You Are Pregnant:
Pregnancy is a time of wonder. You wonder what you’ll feel like later in your pregnancy. You wonder how your baby grows. You also wonder about birth and how it’ll feel to become a parent.
WHAT HAPPENS DURING YOUR PREGNANCY?
During your pregnancy, you may feel different than you ever have before. You begin to see the physical changes in your body and you feel some emotional changes, too. Your baby also grows and changes rapidly.
Pregnancy is divided into three time periods (called trimesters). With each time period lasting about 3 months, during which many things would occur.
However, near the end of your pregnancy, you will think more and worry more about labor, birth, birth of the baby. In this write-up, I am considering labor, labor pains and how to tackle it.
LABOR AND BIRTH
Labor is the work done by your uterus when your baby is born. During labor, your uterus contracts and pushes your baby down into your cervix. This opens the cervix. After the cervix is completely open, your pushing efforts and contractions move your baby down and out of the birth canal.
Childbirth (labor and birth) may take anywhere between a few hours and a few days. You can’t know for sure how long it will take. It’s different for every woman.
By the end of pregnancy, your uterus is the largest and strongest muscle in your body. When it contracts, your uterus hardens and bulges like any other muscle.
If you press your fingertips on your belly during a contraction, you can feel how hard it is. Contractions come and go during labor. Each contraction is like a wave. It’s weak in the beginning, it builds to a peak; and then it gradually goes away. Between contractions, your uterus rests.
As labor goes on, these rests get shorter and the contractions get longer and stronger.
HOW LABOR BEGINS
Hormones made by the mother and baby start labor. They set off a chain of events that cause:
1. More uterine contractions
2. Changes in the cervix (it becomes softer and thinner and begins to open)
3. Changes in the baby in preparation for life outside the womb.
These hormonal changes usually work together at the time the baby is ready to be born and the mother is ready to give birth.
Luckily, most healthy women give birth to healthy full-term babies (babies born near their due dates). But what the mother does during pregnancy can affect when labor starts. For example, heavy smoking, having an infection, using of drugs, living with a lot of stress etc. can cause labor to start too early.
TIMING LABOR CONTRACTIONS
Knowing how to time your contractions can help you decide if you’re truly in labor. Then it’s easier to know when to call your caregiver or when to go to the hospital or birth center.
3 MAIN TERMS TO KNOW
You need to know 3 main terms that describe you contractions:
(1) Length (how long a contraction lasts, in seconds)
(2) Frequency (how often the contractions are coming e.g. every 5 minutes)
(3) Intensity (how strong the contractions feel)
To time contractions, you need a watch or clock that tells the seconds. You also need a piece of paper.
1. When contraction begin, write down the time (include the hour, minutes, and seconds)
2. When contraction ends, write down the time.
3. To find out the frequency, time 5 or 6 contraction in a row.
Stages of Labor
1. Prelabor — These contractions occur before labor really begins. They help the cervix soften and thinner because prelabor contractions don’t usually open the cervix, this is sometimes called “false labor”.
2. First stage
These contractions work to open the cervix until it’s dilated to 10 centimeters. This is sometimes called “true labor”
3. Second stage
These contractions press your baby out of your uterus into your vigina. At this time, you push until your baby is born.
4. Third stage
These contractions work to push out the placenta.
5. Fourth stage
This refers to the first few hours after birth. It’s also called recovery.
WHAT DO LABOR CONTRACTIONS FEEL LIKE?
Early in labor, contractions may feel like a dull lower backache or menstrual cramps. They come and then go away. These early contractions are usually short and mild. They come about every 15-20 minutes.
However, some labors begin with strong contractions that are closer together.
As labor advances, you’ll feel the contractions in your belly or in your lower back, or both. Many women feel the pain in the back and come around to the front.
If contractions keep coming but last less than 30 seconds, if they are not very strong, and if they don’t get closer together, you’re still in prelabor or entering early labor. In true labor, your contractions will become stronger, longer, and /closer together as time goes on.