For 9 months, your body has been working to grow and nurture your baby. During the last weeks of pregnancy, changes occur that begin working toward getting your baby into the world. The baby starts to descend into the pelvis, and the mild contractions that take place only occasionally prior to the last few weeks may increase in frequency and begin the job of thinning and opening your cervix. These “warm up” contractions become more frequent and stronger, and eventually push your baby out.
Labor is the natural process at the end of pregnancy that begins with regular uterine contractions and culminates in the birth of the baby and the delivery of the placenta. Each labor is unique, differing from one woman to another, and even from one labor to the next in the same woman.
Some of the factors that will affect the course of your labor are your health, nutrition, emotional make-up, size and shape of your pelvis, preparation for labor and birth through classes and reading, and practice of the conditioning exercises, relaxation exercises, and breathing techniques. The size and presentation of the baby are also important factors. Additionally, the emotional support you receive, along with any medical interventions used, may also affect the course of your labor.
Even though each labor is different, certain aspects of all labors are similar. For ease of explanation, labor is divided into four stages. The first stage begins with the onset of labor and ends with the complete effacement and dilation of the cervix. The second stage of labor, expulsion, begins with the complete dilation of the cervix and ends with the birth of the baby. The third stage of labor is the delivery of the placenta. The fourth stage is the first hours after birth, or the recovery period.
It is most important that you go into labor trusting your body. Women have been giving birth successfully for centuries. Your body was built for carrying and nourishing your baby, and for safely delivering him into the world.
The act of giving birth is something that will remain with you for the rest of your life. It can be a positive, empowering experience, providing an opportunity for you to grow as a woman. Trust your body to do the work of labor and giving birth to your baby. A woman’s body was perfectly designed to perform this miraculous, natural function. Allow yourself to view birth as healthy and normal, instead of as a medical or surgical procedure. There will be hard work and pain, but the incredible feeling of accomplishment that follows will provide great satisfaction that will positively impact the rest of your life. Experience the joy of actively bringing forth your baby into this world, confident that your body knows exactly what to do.