Every woman’s experience is unique. Below are typical guidelines that will help you understand what to expect during labor and delivery.
- Normal labor can begin three weeks prior to the anticipated due date up until two weeks afterwards.
- There is no way to precisely predict when labor will begin.
- In the first stage of labor the cervix dilates and effaces (thins out). Once contractions begin, they usually increase in strength, duration, and frequency.
- The second stage of labor begins when the cervix is completely (i.e. 10 centimeters) dilated. It ends when, following expulsive efforts (pushing) by the mother, the infant is delivered.
- During the third stage of labor, the placenta and membranes are delivered.
- There are a number of methods for monitoring the fetus that may be used during labor.
- Options for pain control during labor include breathing exercises, imagery, relaxation techniques, medications, and regional anesthesia.
What are the early symptoms and signs of labor?
Signs and symptoms of impending labor are not uniform among all women.
Early symptoms and signs that labor is approaching are “lightening” and passing the mucous plug.
Lightening is a term used to denote the descent of the fetal head into the pelvis as labor approaches. It can occur up to two weeks prior to the onset of labor, or it may not occur at all. At that time, there may be increased pressure on the maternal bladder accompanied by the urge to urinate more frequently. Many women find it easier to breathe after lightening occurs because upward pressure on the diaphragm diminishes.
Release or passage of the “mucus plug” can be another sign that labor is near. Mucus produced by the cervical glands normally blocks the entrance to the cervix and helps prevent infection. When the fetal head impinges on the cervix, mucus from the cervical glands, along with a small amount of blood, is expelled. This results in a blood-tinged or brownish discharge being expelled from the vagina. Passage of the mucus plug may occur days before or after labor begins. It is also common after a vaginal examination. Read More