Education and Classes:
We are proud to be a part of your family’s journey as you bring a new member into the world. This journey can be as confusing as it is exciting, so here at UPMC Western Maryland, we encourage you to take advantage of free online prenatal classes available to our parents-to-be through the UPMC Magee Women’s Hospital. Click here to register.
Call our Perinatal Unit at 240-964-6400 if you have any questions.
The Three Stages Of Labor
Your body prepares to give birth. Contractions gradually get longer, stronger and closer together. The cervix (mouth of the uterus) gradually dilates (opens) until it is open wide enough for the baby to pass through. Your cervix dilates from 1-10 centimeters. This is the longest stage of labor. It could take 12-18 hours or more.
- Relax – Get into a comfortable position using lots of pillows or an exercise ball for support. You may even want to bring your favorite pillow from home. Keep all muscles, from head to toe, as loose and relaxed as possible.
- Breathe – Concentrate on breathing in through your nose and exhaling out through your mouth. Breathe at a slow, steady pace. Childbirth classes will teach you much more detailed breathing techniques.
- Activity – If you are not able to sleep, then walk, sit up and change positions often. Many women find it relaxing to sit in the shower or use the Jacuzzi. The Jacuzzi can only be used if your membranes (water) are not broken.
- Other Tips – Eat ice chips to relieve dry mouth. Use a warm or cold washcloth on your back to relieve back pain. You may want to have someone rub your back or bring music to listen to.
Finally! This is what you have been waiting for. Your cervix has opened completely and you may now begin to push your baby out. This stage may last two hours or more and ends when your baby is born.
It is possible to shorten the length of time that you will push by using a technique called “laboring down.” This is most effective if you have an epidural since the urge to push may be very strong. Laboring down means to delay the start of the pushing, once you are fully dilated, until the baby is very low in the birth canal. When you delay pushing, you may reduce swelling to the perineum and may reduce your chances of tearing during the birth.
Another way to reduce your chances of tearing would be to avoid an “assisted delivery.” This would be when your doctor uses either a vacuum or forceps to deliver the baby, which sometimes must be done. By laboring down and allowing the baby’s head to stretch the vagina and perineum, you decrease your chances of a fast, explosive delivery that may result in tears. However, despite all measures, tears, and episiotomies sometimes still occur.
After the baby is born, you will deliver the placenta (afterbirth). This usually takes 15-20 minutes.
During this time, your doctor will repair (suture) any lacerations that have occurred during the birth process or may repair an episiotomy if one was done. Lacerations are small tears that sometimes occur in the vagina or skin and muscle around the vaginal opening. Lacerations/tears commonly occur in the perineal area—the area between the anus and vaginal opening. An episiotomy is an incision made in the perineum to widen the vaginal opening.