Childbirth - step by step

Childbirth - step by step
Childbirth - step by step

After nine months your pregnancy is full term and soon baby will show up. But how will your birth go? This is childbirth, step by step!



Is it D-Day? Your expected due date, DPA, has finally arrived! But are you going to give birth today? Maybe. Or maybe not. Indeed, the DPA only gives the day when the probability of birth is highest, but a large number of factors also influence the arrival of a baby. So how do you know when labor will start?

Warning signs and false labor

While it is impossible to know the exact date and time when labor will start, there are some signs that can let you know that baby will be arriving soon. Moreover, during your weekly visits, your doctor can, thanks to an examination, inform you of the state of your cervix. Between week 35e and week 37e you may have false contractions, the Braxton-Hicks contractions, as well as more abundant vaginal discharge. At the start of labour, intestinal disorders are also common. Furthermore, the loss ofmucous plug is a sign that your cervix is starting to work, but it is also possible to lose it several days before delivery. So, no need to rush to the maternity ward just yet!

True labor leading to childbirth

Before you go to the hospital or the birthing centre, you must first make sure that you are in “real labour”. How to differentiate the true from the false work? If labor has indeed started, you should experience the following symptoms, although not necessarily in this order:

  • Your contractions are regular and increasing in intensity. Usually a warm bath and changes in position don't change anything.
  • The duration of your contractions should be regular, 45 to 60 seconds each.
  • It becomes difficult, if not downright impossible, for you to speak during a contraction
  • Bleeding is possible.
  • The contractions give the impression of a wave in the lower abdomen, or even in the lower back.
  • Your cervix has matured
  • You have water broke or your pocket has cracked.

If your labor is well and truly started, call the maternity ward first, where you will be told if it is time to go there and we can prepare for your arrival. There's no point in leaving too early: you risk being sent home.

In the case of a induced delivery, you will probably not haveknow these warning signs, but the steps that follow are the same.

Arriving at the hospital

Once you arrive at the hospital with your suitcase, a vaginal examination will be carried out to assess the stage of labour. Usually, if your cervix is 3 cm open and your contractions are at least every 5 minutes, you will be placed in a labor room, or in your room. This of course depends on the policy of the establishment you have chosen to give birth. From there, the hours are counted: your delivery has indeed begun!

Phase 1: cervical dilation

It's estimated that for a first baby, the cervical dilation stage lasts about 8 hours, but it can be much faster or much longer long. Thanks to uterine contractions, the cervix effaces, then finally dilates. Slow at first (about 1 cm per hour during the first part of labour), this phase gradually accelerates to reach full dilation, i.e. 10 cm.

It is when your cervix is dilated by 3 to 7 cm, i.e. during the so-called active phase, that you will be offered an epidural.

Phase 2: expulsion

It is estimated that the expulsion phase lasts an average of 10 to 40 minutes for a first delivery. Here again, it's an average: in your case, it could be shorter or longer! At this point, your contractions, which should be every 2 minutes, have probably changed: you feel an urgent need to push. This isnormal, since baby is now well down in the pelvis, head first (unless there is a breech).

When baby's head straightens, face down, it's time to push. Depending on the birth preparation method and the prenatal classes you have taken, this will be the time to put the technique learned into practice and push, when told to do so. This reflex should come naturally to you, since the baby's head is now pressing on the perineum. This is when, if the muscles of the perineum lack flexibility, the doctor decides to perform an episiotomy. That said, this procedure is increasingly rare.

When the head is out, we will make sure that the umbilical cord does not strangle baby, and, under the direction of your doctor or your midwife, you will only have to do a very small thrust. So! Baby is out! Most of the time, unless there is a complication, it will then be deposited on you. It's time for the first-ever skin-to-skin!

Baby has arrived

So we cut the umbilical cord. Shortly after, first aid will be given to your child. We'll make sure everything is fine by doing the AGPAR test. If everything is normal, you will then be given the baby, with whom you can spend a few hours of sweetness and intimacy. This is when you will be offered to put your baby to the breast, if you have decided to breastfeed.

Phase 3: Deliverance

It is alsoduring your first contact with baby that the last phase of childbirth, the delivery, will take place. You will then have new contractions: it is time to expel the placenta. To help you do this, your stomach will usually be pressed. When the placenta is out, it is examined well to make sure that it is complete and that small pieces are not still in your uterus, which could prevent it from closing and cause bleeding. If you've had any tears and stitches are needed, you'll be stitched up then too.

Complications in childbirth

Of course, sometimes things don't go as planned and sometimes natural childbirth is not possible. We can then have

use a caesarean section, so as not to risk the baby's life, or your own.

Routine and fitness

If your delivery was uneventful and baby is doing well, your hospital stay should not last more than 48 hours, and even less in some hospitals. Pretty soon, you'll be going home to familiarize with your new routine with baby and, little by little, start to get back into shape.


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