Signs and stages of labor and delivery

Labor is the uterus contractions right before delivery, and it can take from a few hours to even days. The common symptoms of labor are discharge of bloody mucus, increased pressure within the uterus, and swinging energy levels. The different stages of labor are as follows:

Braxton Hicks contractions: Irregular and typically painless contractions experienced after about 20 weeks of pregnancy are called the Braxton Hicks contractions. They are stimulated either when the bladder is full or a sudden increase in maternal or fetal activity. These contractions are usually just uncomfortable and do not dilate the cervix. They are, however, essential for preparing the uterus for delivery by increasing blood flow.

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Stage one of delivery: During stage one of delivery, labor can be classified into active labor, early labor, or transitional labor. Early labor takes much time but is not that intense. Discharge of mucus, cramps, and backache are the common symptoms that occur due to contractions. The contractions are not necessarily irregular and can range from strong to mild. However, during active labor, there is an increase in the dilation of the cervix with more muscular contraction. In transitional labor, the contractions tend to be very intense and frequent, occurring every few minutes.

Stage two of delivery: Stage two is the actual delivery of the child from the uterus. With complete dilation of the uterus, the contractions induce the descent of the fetus to the vagina. The vagina tends to sting if the head of the baby crowns.

Stage three of delivery: During the final stage, the placenta of the uterus is also delivered outside. This is achieved with milder contractions and the placenta gets separated from the walls of the uterus.

Labor induction and factors influencing normal birth
Labor can be induced artificially for several reasons. These include having complications when the labor has not begun even after water breaks or when the pregnancy is past 42 weeks. Inducing labor is usually done with medications like prostaglandins and oxytocin or stripping the membranes of the uterine wall and amniotic sac. The factors that determine the method for inducing labor are the following:

The stage of pregnancy.

The rupturing of membranes, if any.

Reason for artificial induction.

If it is the first child or not.

If the cervix is ready for labor or not.

The following are the various factors that inhibit the chances of natural delivery of a child:

Previous history of Caesarean section (C-section) for delivery.

Older age of the mother.

Previous history of multiple surgeries.

Health conditions like high blood pressure and gestational diabetes.

Types of delivery

The following are the various delivery options available in modern medicine:

Natural childbirth or unassisted vaginal delivery: This is considered the safest and most preferred type of delivery. No pain relievers or labor inducers are used for a natural birth, though heart monitors to check the fetus’s heart are commonly employed.

Assisted vaginal delivery: In assisted vaginal delivery, tools and even surgical incisions are used to facilitate delivery. For example, forceps can facilitate the guiding of the fetus’s head through the birth canal. In vacuum extraction, a cup is used to apply suction and pull the fetus’s head out from the canal. Incisions on the tissues between the anus and vagina called an episiotomy might help induce quicker delivery. An amniotomy (breaking of the amniotic sac) is also often employed for the same reason.

Cesarean section: A C-section is a surgical procedure where incisions are made in the uterus and abdomen to remove the fetus. As a major surgery, it comes with its risks and has a much longer recovery time than natural birth. The cut is usually made horizontally, however, vertical incisions may be made in some cases. The decision to have a C-section depends on fetal illness, maternal conditions, and previous pregnancies.


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