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The Three Stages of Labour and How to Manage Them

Sep 22, 2016

It's without doubt one of the most special moments of your entire life. At last, you will welcome your newborn child into the world. You'll breathe in every one of their tiny features, inhale their delicious scent and marvel at the immense power of nature. You have (with a little help) created this wonderful, brand new baby.

Yet sadly, for many this moment isn't one they look forward to. Instead of feeling the excitement and anticipation they only see a dark cloud of fear, tension and dread looming on the horizon: “How on earth will I know what to do?” they wonder, “Can my body really do this?”, “How much will it hurt?” and most of all “What happens if I fail?”

But there' s no need to be afraid. You see, every labour has its own rhythm and pace, every woman's body is built differently, and every baby will be born in it’s own unique way. It’s part of what makes us so special as human beings. Our female bodies were built to deliver babies, and so, with the help of some knowledge and some trained, experienced female wisdom, you will feel empowered to give birth with confidence.

Today, I'll help you to believe in the power of your body as well as your ability to give birth. I'll explain what happens during labour, and I'll also give you some tools that will help you manage your labour so you can stay calm, confident and in control.

The Three Stages of Labour

Let's first consider what happens to your body and baby during labour. There are three stages: contractions, the birth, and the delivery of the placenta.

1st Stage: Contractions
The first stage is when your baby signals that it’s ready to be born, and your body prepares to welcome this new child into the world. Your cervix (the opening to your uterus) begins to soften and open so that the baby can pass through. This rhythmic and regular sensation is called a contraction. Contractions usually start gently, then increase in intensity as your body gets closer to birthing your baby. Every woman experiences them slightly differently: some describe the sensation as similar to period pain, others feel uncomfortable about the bump or back, or feel full around the pelvis. Once you have reached 10cm, your baby can be born.

2nd Stage: The Birth
The second stage is the best bit! Soon you will be meeting your beautiful baby. By this point, you are fully dilated and feeling the urge to push. With your help, your child will pass through the birth canal and will be welcomed into the world and into your arms. This stage can last from a few minutes, to around two hours. [link:http://www.nct.org.uk/birth/second-stage-labour]

3rd Stage: Delivery of the Placenta
You will by now be enjoying your baby, breathing in every little detail of this wonderful, breathtaking new addition to your family. There’s just one thing left for you to do, and that’s to deliver the placenta and remaining umbilical cord. This organ has helped to nourish and protect your baby throughout your pregnancy, and now it’s no longer needed. So after your baby is born and the umbilical cord has stopped pulsating, you may feel some contractions and the urge to push, and you will push out the placenta. It will probably feel a bit strange (imagine delivering a blob of jelly) but it shouldn’t hurt. It can help to breastfeeding your baby shortly after birth.

How do your emotions change the birth of your baby?

It's an incredibly happy time. You don't want to be terrified of bringing your child into the world. What you do want is a healthy and happy newborn, less medical interventions, a greater control of your pain, less tension and a shorter and easier labour. You also want the power and knowledge to manage your birth experience naturally, without relying on drugs. All of these things are within your reach if you trust yourself and your body enough to give birth.

If you feel afraid of giving birth, the ‘fight or flight’ response is likely to kick in and the stess hormones adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol will flood your body. These route blood to your limbs (so you could potentially run away) instead of feeding it to your uterus and baby. As a result, your uterus won’t function as effectively, your labour could be longer and more difficult, your baby could get less oxygen, and oxytocin (the hormone that helps labour progress) could be reduced. Also, natural endorphins that reduce pain are less likely to be released. You will feel more uncomfortable.

However, if you feel calm, confident and relaxed, you will feel more positive and in control, you will experience less pain (or even eliminate pain all together), your baby will be healthier, you are less likely to need interventions, and your labour is likely to be shorter and easier.

How You Can Have A Calmer, More Confident Labour

There are many things that you can do to manage your own labour. These include deep relaxation and self-hypnosis, optimal birth positioning, visualisation, anchoring, partner support and birth breathing

1) Deep relaxation and self hypnosis
In our classes, we'll explore some deep relaxation and self-hypnosis techniques that will help eliminate fear and stress during your pregnancy and also empower you and increase your confidence during labour itself.

2) Positions
The right birthing position can make the difference between an easy labour and a more challenging one. There are ways that we can work with the anatomy of our bodies, the power of gravity and our own physical comfort to ease your baby’s arrival into the world. There are many birthing positions that can help, and in class, we will explore these further.

3) Visualisation for pain relief
You have the power to control the level of discomfort or pain that you experience. This is because the pain receptors in your body are subject to more than just physical stimulus, but emotional and psychological stimulus too. Together, we can explore some useful visualisation techniques that will enable you to control your own level of discomfort during labour.

4) Anchoring
An anchor is something that constantly triggers a psychological ‘safe place’ that you can retreat to if you feel challenged or momentarily overwhelmed. It’s useful to develop a toolkit of these ‘anchors’ to enable you to manage your birth experience. These can be things like your partner’s voice, your favourite music, or a particular mental image. In class, I'll work with you to identify the perfect anchors for you.

5) The role of your birthing partner
It’s important that you have someone with you that unconditionally supports you throughout the birth. It doesn’t matter whether this is your partner, your mother, a close friend or other trusted person. They have a huge role to play in helping you to feel empowered throughout and with help, they can learn how best to support and assist you. They can gently remind you to breathe for both yourself and your baby, be your eyes and ears, prompt you to drink regularly and help you to stay focused and confident in your ability to bring this child into the world.

6) Birth Breathing
Together, we will go through the way in which you can use your body’s own natural birthing reflex to ease your new baby into the birth. Also known as Assisting the Natural Expulsive Reflex (NER), it involves managing your breath in order to allow your body to do what women have done for millions of years before you, and that’s welcome a brand new child into the world.

Childbirth is a wonderful time for both you and your baby. It will makes a huge difference to your labour if you are calm, in control and confident about both your ability to give birth and your ability as a parent. We have briefly covered the stages of labour, why it's important to be in control and you have seen some of the things that can make your labour easier and shorter, and more calm.

If you'd like to know more about how to have a calmer, more confident birth, please contact me for more information. I hold regular group classes in your area, and I'd love to help you have a wonderful birth. Please get in touch on 07971651698 or [email protected]



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