Labour & Childbirth
Birthing, also called labour or parturition is the act or process of giving birth. Every woman’s labour is different, even from the first pregnancy to the next.
The process of normal childbirth is categorised into 3 stages of labour:
First stage: This stage commences with dilation and thinning of your cervix to allow the baby to reach the end of the birth canal. It is usually the longest part of the labour and is divided into early labour and active labour.
- Early labour: In early labour your cervix may dilate and you may experience mild-to-moderate contractions lasting for 30 to 90 seconds. A thick, stringy, blood-tinged liquid may discharge through the vagina. The duration of early labour is unpredictable, it can be longer for your first delivery and shorter for subsequent deliveries.
- Active labour: During active labour your cervix dilates more rapidly and the contractions are stronger, closer and may last longer. The transition phase is considered as the last part of the active labour.
Second stage: This stage is the birth of your baby and usually lasts from a few minutes up to two hours depending on the position of the mother and the baby. During this stage your cervix is fully dilated and the uterine contractions become more frequent and you may feel a strong urge to push. With each contraction you may be encouraged to push to speed up the process. You may be asked to withhold some pushes to help prevent tearing. Delivery of the baby completes this stage.
Third stage: During this stage the placenta, an organ connecting the uterine wall and the fetus, is expelled.
Complications of the birthing process include:
Weak contractions: Weak contractions can make the mother exhausted and can cause fetal distress. Fetal distress occurs when there is a lack of oxygen.
Passage obstruction: Difficult labour may occur when the birth passage is obstructed by tumours, cysts, fractures, and changes, such as degenerative joint disease or childhood rickets.
Abnormal presentation of the fetus: Abnormal position of the fetus could be either upside down or breech (buttocks down) position. In face presentation, the baby’s face is leading with the neck in extension. In shoulder presentation, the shoulder, arm or trunk may present first and this type of presentation is more common in multiple pregnancies.
Instrumental delivery and caesarean section may be required when a safe, spontaneous vaginal delivery is not imminent.