Time to push
After your cervix is completely dilated, you begin the process called “pushing.” By bearing down during your contractions, you will help move your baby through the birth canal. During this process, your contractions will actually be a little farther apart than they were during transition. Use this time between contractions to rest and gather your strength.
For many women, the pushing process comes as a relief after the previous stages of labor. Instead of just concentrating on getting through a contraction, you now have a job to do. As each contraction begins, you will take a big breath and bear down as hard as you can. Your knees will be apart, and your head forward. It is common to push like this from two to four times during each contraction.
Different childbirth-preparation classes teach different techniques for taking breaths as you push through each contraction. Your partner and your nurses will coach you in your breathing, help hold your body in the correct position and let you know the progress you are making. Between contractions they can give you ice chips, wipe your brow with a cold washcloth and offer encouragement. You will probably feel exhausted, but many women also feel a sense of relief and optimism during this time. The pushing process typically takes about an hour, though times will vary greatly from woman to woman.
As the baby’s head starts to push through the opening of the birth canal, you may feel stretching or burning. You may touch her head if you wish, or see it in a mirror. Your doctor may direct you to push, to pant or to blow.
The big event
The moment of birth can be an exciting experience. You may feel relieved, exhausted, joyful and proud. All your hard work pays off when your baby is born. Your doctor will clamp the baby’s cord, and your partner may cut it if he or she wishes! Depending on the factors surrounding the birth, your baby may be put on your chest or placed inside a warmer for a few minutes. Or she may be dried off and given a quick examination first.
Delivering the placenta
As you cuddle your newborn, the final stages of childbirth begin. It may take anywhere from five to 20 minutes for the placenta to be delivered. If you had an episiotomy, your doctor will stitch it up during this time.
After your placenta is delivered, your initial recovery period usually lasts a few hours, depending on the circumstances of the birth. You may have some cramping, often called after-pains, which compress blood vessels to prevent excessive loss of blood and help shrink the uterus. Your pulse and blood pressure will be monitored, as will the vaginal discharge made up of blood and discarded cells. You may feel some trembling in your legs, which can be helped by warm blankets. Ice packs applied to your perineum will greatly help the soreness there. You will probably also be hungry and thirsty — you will have done a lot of work and used a lot of energy!
A good time to breastfeed
This recovery period is an ideal time to breastfeed your baby for the first time. Don’t be discouraged, however, if she doesn’t “take” to the nipple right away. You have plenty of time in the hours ahead to get to know each other.
ID bands for safety
Very soon after birth, an identification band will be placed on each of your baby’s ankles, where they will remain until you are ready to go home. An identical band will be placed on your wrist and one other will be given to your designated partner.
How your newborn may look
Especially if this is your first child, your baby may not look quite the way you expected. A newborn’s head is very large compared to the rest of her body, and it may be somewhat molded or elongated following its journey through the birth canal. The skin of many babies is blue at birth. It may have bruises or reddened areas, be streaked with blood or be covered with tiny hairs and/or vernix, a white, “cheesy” protective substance. All of these circumstances are temporary. Within a few days, your baby’s head will be rounded and “normal” and she will look much more like the sweet baby you had imagined.
Hear from two Swedish OBs and find out everything you need to know if you’re planning to get pregnant or just found out you already are!
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One Patient's Story
Amazingly, her twin boys were born three weeks apart.