Vaginal delivery is the natural progression of pregnancy.
Once the pregnancy is completed, the labor process begins by a series of chemical reactions. Initially, the uterine cervix softens in order for dilation to start, and then uterine contractions begin to cause dilation. Some women have distinct signs of childbirth (water breakage), while others may not (labor induction may be necessary).
Vaginal delivery is divided into three stages:
It can last several hours, especially when it is the woman’s first childbirth. At this stage we are waiting for the cervix to widen in order for the baby to come out of the uterus. The cervix with the pressure from the head of the fetus does not contract but passively opens (cervical dilation).
The pushing begins when dilation is complete and the baby exits the uterus and the woman’s pelvis. It lasts less than the cervical dilation stage, usually a few minutes. Contractions may sometimes cause mild or more intense discomfort or pain in the back or the lower abdomen, but they can be treated on the spot by either a shift in the woman’s position or with swift, rhythmic breathing.
If this stage lasts longer than expected, or if there are indications that the fetus is not oxygenated properly, then the gynecologist intervenes and speeds up delivery by using some form of instrumental or assisted birth, such as a forceps or ventouse birth.
During labor, it is imperative to track the time at which a contraction commences, its duration, and the time of the next commencement, in order to be able to calculate the interval correctly.
The first (mild) contractions usually have an interval of 15-20 minutes and last from 60 to 90 seconds. As labor progresses, they become more frequent until they reach 5 minutes’ intervals. At the time of childbirth we usually have severe contractions that last for 45-60 seconds at 3 or 4 minutes’ intervals. The stage of contractions is completed with the full cervical dilation (10 cm) and the final delivery of the fetus and the placenta.
The stage of labor, the placenta delivery begins from the moment the child is born and ends when the placenta comes out. This is when labor is over.