Giving Birth to Your Baby
Giving birth is one of the most amazing experiences a woman can ever have in her lifetime. It can also be quite scary if you have never experienced it before. One cannot be fully prepared for the birth of their child; expect the unexpected. Nevertheless, below is a guide to what happens when you give birth.
Going into Labor
There are many different ways you can end up at the hospital to give birth to your child. Your water can break, either as a small trickle or a more substantive flow. You may not have contractions when this happens, but you need to call your doctor and get to the hospital within several hours of your water breaking. You will likely begin experiencing labor contractions sometime after your water breaks, or you may need to be induced to get that process started.
Other women begin by having labor contractions. Those contractions start out being relatively far apart and then the contractions get closer and closer together. The general rule of thumb is to go to the hospital when your contractions are 5 minutes apart, lasting about one minute each and this has been happening for one hour. However, if this is not your first baby, you may want to head to the hospital a little earlier as each labor goes more and more quickly. At some point after you arrive at the hospital, your water will either break on its own or the doctor will break it when it is deemed time.
Finally, there are some who have to be given medicine to induce labor contractions. This process typically takes longer. This is done when the woman has not gone into labor herself and she is one to two weeks past her due date, at which point the environment in the womb is no longer healthy for the baby.
At the Hospital
When you arrive at the hospital you will typically arrive directly at the maternity ward. The nurses will check you in and get you into a labor and delivery room. You should have pre-registered with the hospital so that this process is very quick. This is where you will deliver your baby. You will be put on a monitor to keep an eye on your contractions and the baby's heartbeat. The nurses will help you breathe through the contractions. If you wish to have an epidural, you are typically permitted to do so at any time unless you are 10 centimeters dilated and must start pushing. The nurses will regularly check you to see how far you are dilated. Once you reach 10 centimeters, the labor and delivery nurse will explain how the process of pushing will work. That nurse will be with you the majority of the time you are pushing. In fact, you will not see the actual obstetrician (which is often the doctor on call since babies like to arrive outside of office hours) until the baby is close to crowning. For a first time giving birth vaginally, it can take up to 2 or 3 hours.
It may feel like forever and like no progress is being made as you repeatedly push to the count of ten several times. However, you are truly working your baby through the birthing canal. Finally you will start to see the head. When the doctor comes to finish the delivery, the area is draped significantly to catch all the fluids that will come out with the baby. Once the head is pushed out, the baby is very close to being completely out. In other words, getting the head out is the hardest part. The doctor and delivery nurse will guide you as to when you need to push and for how long each time. Finally, your baby is completely out, the cord is cut and a few quick assessments are done to ensure the baby is ok. Then you can hold your baby briefly. They will do another assessment to ensure everything is still ok with the baby. During this time, the doctor will deliver your placenta.
For some women, giving birth vaginally is not an option. This could be for a variety of reasons, from your baby being breech, or the head not being straight down. Sometimes the need for a C-Section is known ahead of time, whereas others are unexpected and the decision is made during labor while at the hospital. Some people have the opportunity to start pushing before it is determined a C-Section is needed, while others never get to the point of pushing. Whatever the reason, some babies will be born via C-Section. You will be taken to an operating room. The father or partner is allowed to be with you during the surgery. Giving birth via C-Section involves the doctors making an incision just below the bikini line and into the uterus. They will pull the baby out and cut the cord and conduct the same assessments they do in a regular delivery. The baby is then taken to the nursery, after you have a brief opportunity to hold the baby, and you are sewn and cleaned up and taken to recovery. You are awake but completely numb during the entire surgery so you do not feel anything other than some tugging.
Giving birth, whether vaginally or via C-Section is an incredible experience. The moment you bring this new life into this world, you will find a love so deep it may not have seemed possible. Once you have given birth, it is important to take care of both yourself and your baby.