Amy & Stuart
We have been on the path to parenthood for two plus years. We were pregnant five times, three ectopic pregnancies and two miscarriages. We also did ivf and several other fertility treatments. We decided to adopt in August 2008. Our profile was activated in early September, 2008. We were contacted by many birth mothers, 24 to be exact. We enjoyed speaking and emailing with each of them and learning their more ...
Giving birth, like every other aspect of pregnancy, is as individual as each woman. But there are definite stages that all women will pass through, each in her own way.
The first stage is typically the longest, taking you from the earliest contractions to full dilation. Stage one labor has three phases (see below). Next comes pushing, when you'll actually be giving birth to your baby. In the third stage, you'll deliver the placenta. An average first-time full term labor is about 15 hours, though 20 hours is not unusual. Some women go through it faster, but don't count on being one of them. Women who've given birth previously average 8 hour labors.
Giving birth in the first stage can be divided into early labor, active labor, and transition. In early labor, contractions start the work of dilating (opening) and effacing (thinning) your cervix. It may be hard to tell if these are real contractions or Braxton Hicks, but in general, true contractions usually become longer, stronger, and closer together. Some women may be in early labor for hours without knowing it.
When the cervix is dilated 3 to 4 centimeters, you're in active labor. This can be an exciting time - this is it! Contractions become stronger and closer together, opening your cervix to 7 or 8 centimeters, and you probably won't be able to talk through the contractions now. If you haven't called your practitioner already, this is the time to do so and to move to wherever you'll be giving birth. Support from your coach becomes crucial in this phase, which can last about 6 hours.
Transition opens the cervix to a full 10 centimeters. Contractions come hard and fast, often on top of each other, and can last from a few minutes to a few hours. Hang on through transition - when it's done you'll be giving birth.
With the cervix fully dilated, you enter the second stage of labor, pushing - the part we usually think of as giving birth. For about an hour (probably longer if you have an epidural, shorter if this isn't your first birth) you'll work with the contractions to push your baby through the birth canal.
After the baby is born, expect a few more contractions to deliver the placenta. This is the third stage of giving birth - but you may be too absorbed in your baby to notice.