You’ve probably heard about a million stories by now from your mother, mother-in-law, sisters, friends, and even strangers about what to expect in the different stages of labor. While some women may have had a traumatic delivery, there are many others who have had wonderful, holistic labor experiences.
With a little help and preparation, you’re more likely to feel confident as you prepare to deliver your baby. To begin, let’s go through the basics and take a look at the different stages of labor you’ll experience.
When to go to the hospital: Stages of labor
Experts claim that when your baby is ready to be delivered, they emit a tiny amount of a substance, which triggers your hormones to start the labor process. This typically happens spontaneously between weeks 37 and 42 of pregnancy.
In some cases, a medical expert may induce labor. This suggests that you are using a medicine that causes your body to go into labor. The need for labor induction could arise.
- You have health conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure that could be harmful to your health or the health of your unborn child.
- The growth of your baby is too slow.
- Your kid is overdue (still in the womb after 42 weeks).
- Your water has broken, but labor has not yet started.
When to go to the hospital when pregnant and cramping
Read on to find out exactly what happens in each of the different stages of labor!
A simple rule to follow while deciding whether to have labor at a hospital is the 5-1-1 rule. You are already in active labor if your contractions last one minute, occur at least once every five minutes, and have been consistent for at least an hour.
Only around 10% of women really experience their water breaking. Typically, the signs of labor are much slower and less obvious.
Usually, there are two stages of labor: early labor and active labor.
When to go to the hospital: Stages of labor
Early in labor, you’ll start to feel light contractions. Contractions may occur on a regular basis or only occasionally.
This makes it possible for the cervix, which serves as the womb’s opening, to soften and open.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) defines early labor as starting before your cervix has dilated by 6 cm.
During this time, you could notice more kicking and movement than usual, as well as more pressure as the baby “falls” into place. This is the result of their attempts to enter the birth canal head first.
As your delivery canal widens, the mucus plug in your cervix can come out. It’s clear, pink, or even red glob of discharge in your underwear.
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At this point in early labor, you could feel more pain but it’s too early to visit the hospital. According to studies, labor takes far longer and progresses more slowly.
Early labor can last for hours or even days. One 2010 study found that it can take up to 9 hours for labor to advance from 4 to 6 cm, despite the fact that labor progress can vary widely from person to person.
Sometimes early labor will start, pause for a short while, and then resume. While in early labor, you can also do the following to ease your pain:
- Try to unwind (easier said than done, of course).
- Go around the home or the yard.
- Prepare a comfortable position for lying down.
- Ask your partner to lightly massage your back.
- Try practicing deep breathing.
- Take a warm shower.
- Use a cold compress.
- Keep calm.
Active labor is considered the most painful time of labor. When active labor is deemed to have started clinically, your cervix has dilated to a 6 cm measurement, according to ACOG.
During this time contractions will double in frequency and in intensity. You might also feel very tired and really uncomfortable.
Signs to look out for:
- Women start to focus on the contractions.
- They tend to stop talking in between contractions.
- The contractions get closer together and start lasting longer.
- When the natural expulsive reflex kicks in (typically called transition), women might feel:
- loss of confidence
- inward focus
- urge to bear down
Di Bustamante prefers not to strictly categorize the different stages of labor.
As soon as your cervix is at 10 centimeters and fully dilated, your baby will slowly make its way to the birth canal due as a result of all those contractions. With each strong contraction, you will be asked to push, so do it with all your might.
Contrary to popular belief, the length of this labor stage does not necessarily depend on the size of the baby. According to Director of ParentLink, Di Bustamante, a bigger baby does not always take longer to deliver. She shares that gravity can help if the mother labors and births in an upright position.
After the baby has been pushed out, it’s time for the placenta to be delivered. At this point, you’ll still feel mild contractions but nothing you can’t handle. “Birthing of the placenta should not be as intense as labor if the mother is not giving a jab of synthetic oxytocin to reduce the risk of postpartum hemorrhage.
If the jab is given, the placenta is usually birthed in 5 minutes. Without the jab, it is birthed in approximately 30-40 minutes. I have seen it take 3 hours. This is just a variation of normal,” shares Di.
Labor pains symptoms when to go to hospital
While the stages of labor are conventionally bucketed into four key stages, early labor, active labor, the first stage of delivery, and placenta delivery, the Director of ParentLink, Di Bustamante shares that she tries not to relegate the stages of labor into strict phases.
“If you categorize into distinct stages, you place a woman into a box – women do not fit into boxes – and the baby is an active participant during labor and has a mind of their own”.
Di suggests that instead of looking at labor in stages, you should look out for ‘typical’ indicators that labor is starting. Here are labor pain symptoms when to go to hospital:
- The Braxton Hicks warming up surges become very rhythmic and regular.
- Sometimes there is the uterine seal releasing (mucous plug)
- Sometimes there is a birth show (bloody show)
- Sometimes there is a big bowel movement or constipation
- Sometimes the release of the water (as much as Hollywood would like us to believe this is how all labors start, only 4% of labors start with the waters releasing)
What does contraction 5 minutes apart water not broken mean?
Image from Shutterstock
Once your contractions have been coming every five minutes for at least an hour, call your doctor or go to the hospital labor and delivery room.
Whether or not you are having contractions, if your water bursts, call your doctor or the hospital’s labor and delivery unit.
In the event you experience the following symptoms, get help immediately:
- a chest ache
- fainting or dizziness (syncope).
- plenty of nausea and vomiting
- breathing challenges (dyspnea).
- Edema, or swelling, in the arms, legs, or face.
- a lot of blood
- a discernible decrease in fetal movement
Before labor starts, you could have false labor contractions, often known as Braxton Hicks contractions. Your second or third trimester may be the beginning of these irregular uterine contractions, which are quite normal. A contraction causes your uterus to swell before it releases. Contractions help your body get ready for actual labor.
A Braxton Hicks contraction is a brief tightening in your abdomen. These contractions do not increase in frequency, duration, frequency of occurrence, or strength over time.
Braxton Hicks contractions that are uncomfortable can resemble mild menstrual cramps. They typically begin with a change of position and conclude with a break.
Similar to Braxton Hicks contractions in sensation, menstrual cramps. They are felt at the front of your abdomen but not at the back or lower part of your uterus. There is no agony, just discomfort.
Braxton Hicks contractions are irregular, unpredictable, and never truly painful. They become less intense and occur at random intervals when you change positions or go for a walk.
Contrarily, real labor contractions happen more frequently and last for about 60 seconds each. With time, they will get more agonizing and closer together. Genuine contractions that make it difficult to move or speak won’t quit no matter what you do.
With the baby successfully delivered and the placenta flushed out entirely from your body, you may now begin to relax.
If you opt to breastfeed, now will be the best time to start. Not only will your child get the best portion of the breast milk, but you will also help your body heal much faster.
Now you can take a short break before it’s time to take the baby home and begin your new life as a family!
Additional information from Margaux Dolores
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