Knowing what is going on with your body in labor is one of the most comforting and best things that you can do for yourself. Preparation for this event is the key to a better birth experience. If you have fears in labor, or don't understand why this is the way it is, you are more likely to want to give up or have complications.
Taking a childbirth class and educating yourself on the basic stages of labor, will enable you to let go and be in the process. Your body will typically go through these phases in whatever timeframe it needs. 1st stage is where your body is dilating (opening) to 10 cm., 2nd stage is pushing your baby out (this can take one to four hours in a first birth), and 3rd stage is delivery of the placenta.
In the 1st stage of labor, you go through three different phases:
* Early Labor: contractions that are more than 5 mins apart and a cervix that is 1-4cm. dilated. Usually the longest phase of labor. This phase looks like life as normal, with more contractions. I recommend conserving some energy and doing equal amounts activity to rest.
* Active Labor: Contractions that are 3-5 mins apart, lasting about one minute long. The cervix dilates about 5-7cm. Breathing and relaxing through this phase while changing positions often, will help you cope. Comfort measures are also very effective.
* Transition: Contractions are 2-3 mins. apart and dilation finishes opening for the baby and is 7-10cm. The shortest phase typically, but also more intense. Sometimes known as the "I-give-up" phase, because you are almost done.
Then in 2nd stage: You begin pushing. Pushing is more active. Contractions are spaced out to about 5 mins. apart to give your body and baby lots of time to recover in between. Some mom's even get food, water, a quick nap in between pushing contractions. The baby's head is rocking "two steps forward and one back" with each strong pushing contraction. Finally Your baby is born!
In the 3rd Stage: The placenta separates from the uterus wall and once you deliver that amazing organ, you are considered "un-pregnant" officially having completed all three stages.
There is so much information to learn about what helps during each stage of labor and all the details of what is happening. Yet just knowing the basics will build a framework of knowledge to help you succeed!