You’ve gone through nine months of amazing changes during pregnancy, but wait, the truly jaw-dropping stuff is yet to come – in the delivery room. If you end up having a vaginal birth, here are some of the things your body will do:
1. You start in the dark
Ever wondered why so many women go into labour in the middle of the night? One theory is that the human body is primed to seek a dark, comfortable place to give birth, which could also explain why so many labours stall when women arrive at hospital (argh! bright lights!) While the science is still out on the night-labour theory, a 2009 study found that melatonin (secreted at night) synergises with oxytocin to produce labour contractions. So don’t be surprised if the pre-labour pains start to kick in just as you’re heading to bed.
2. You get the ‘go’ sign
During pre-labour, you’ll pass your mucous plug, or notice a ‘bloody show’ – a surefire sign that your cervix is softening and getting ready for labour. The plug is essentially a clear, gelatinous blob of mucous that has been sealing off your cervix for the last nine months. It may come out in one go, or over the course of a few days, and it could also be tinged with a bit of brown or pink blood (the ‘show’). Not only is this the moment your body essentially unseals itself, it’s also an amazing natural go-sign. Birth is imminent, no turning back now.
3. You are designed to endure pain. For a loooong time
The pain of childbirth is legendary, but remarkably, the female body is pretty much designed to withstand a long and painful labour. In order to birth our big-headed babies, the human cervix has to dilate. A lot. And to give you some perspective on that, our cervix dilates about three times wider than an ape’s cervix. The good news is it’s really only during those last few centimetres of dilation (active labour), that we experience the most pain. The bad news is it’s during this final crest of pain that …
4. You hit the wall
Transition: it’s often compared to that moment when marathon runners want to give up. It’s when you feel you can’t go on, and it’s usually when you start shouting for an epidural. Transition usually only lasts for 15 minutes to an hour, but it can feel like a lifetime. Just remember, this is an extraordinary turning point, where your body will push through a wall of pain and find a new reserve of strength. As you break through transition, you’ll realise the true strength of your body.
5. You might poo, and that’s okay
So now that you’re pushing, you might find that all that downward pressure means you either urinate or have a bowel movement during labour. This is totally normal, and to be honest, you won’t even care because you (and the doctors and nurses) will be more focused on that baby you’re pushing out. Your body will do a lot of unexpected things during birth, and this is really just one minor side-effect of its momentous final push for life.
6. You make two deliveries
Once the baby has been delivered, you still have one more job to do, and that’s deliver the placenta. This last stage can take anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes. You might be able to push out the placenta, or your doctor might give you an injection of Picotin (oxytocin) to speed up the process. After all you’ve gone through, this is the easy part. Besides, your eyes will probably be on the baby, not the afterbirth.
7. You bleed
Prepare yourself: after childbirth, there can be a lot of blood. Many women are shocked by the amount of postpartum bleeding they experience. But rest assured, most of the time it’s perfectly normal, and in many cases the bleeding can continue for up to 4-6 weeks. This is simply your body getting rid of the lining of your uterus. You’ll need some heavy-duty maxi pads for those first few days after birth, then eventually the flow should lighten. If, however, the amount of blood is concerning you, be sure to contact your doctor straight away.
Did you notice any other amazing things on D-day?