It’s easy to think that mothers do all the hard work during labour, but in fact, it’s a joint effort. Your peewee is not a sleepy passenger, he’s a co-driver doing his best to push his way out of the birth canal.
Check out what your little one is up to at every stage, plus we have pointers on how you can help welcome him into the world.
1. Early Labour
You'll be Experiencing light contractions about 20 minutes apart, which will gradually decrease to every five minutes.
Bubba will be Pressing his head into the birth canal to start the dilation (opening) of the cervix. At this point, your baby will be producing lots of the hormone oxytocin, which puts him in a content, calm mood. But if your waters break and is greenish in colour, it could be a sign your baby has released meconium (poop) as a result of distress, in which case you’ll be monitored closely. Most of the time, there’s nothing to worry about.
Help your little one By focusing on happy thoughts — if you’re feeling stressed and anxious, bubba could be feeling the same way as cortisol and adrenaline, the hormones produced by these emotions, can cross the placenta.
2. Active Labour
You'll be Having more powerful contractions, which may come as often as every three to four minutes and may last for up to 90 seconds each time.
Bubba will be Getting a bit squashed. During each contraction, your little man is squeezed tightly in your womb, which affects his blood supply. He gets all of his oxygen from the placenta, which means that he receives slightly less oxygen when the umbilical cord is squeezed during a contraction.
Help your little one Trying to relax between contractions — there’ll be another one coming soon enough and you both need to rest while you can. Plus, your body works much better when it’s relaxed. If you switch to “fight or flight” mode, you’ll tense up and labour could come to a halt.
You'll be Possibly feeling shaky or sick. Contractions will now be two or three minutes apart as your cervix works to become fully dilated.
Bubba will be A bit surprised the walls are caving in on him after encasing him peacefully for nine months, but he’s unlikely to be in pain. So, what exactly does a contraction feel like to your baby? It probably feels the same as being squeezed through a tight space.
Help your little one By using gravity. Instead of Iying on your back, which means your peewee will be pushing uphill, try going on all fours, either in a pool or on the bed.
4. Second stage
You'll be Working hard as contractions come every couple of minutes and you’re focused on pushing bub out.
Bubba will be Moving through the birth canal. His skull is getting ready to ‘mould’ to the shape of the birth canal as he travels through it. At this stage, your little love’s heart rate may drop. Again, this may be due to the pressure on the umbilical cord, which reduces blood flow from the placenta to your baby and decreases his oxygen supply. Fortunately, babies have good reserves and are usually able to cope when this happens briefly. If his heart rate drops significantly, it can be a sign of distress. Your gynae will be monitoring his heartbeat closely and will intervene, if necessary.
Help your little one Maximise the amount of oxygen available to you and bub by focusing on breathing rhythmically. Don’t let your inhales become longer than your exhales or your breathing will become shallow and rapid, which lessens the amount of oxygen your body can use for you and your mini-me. It will also leave you feeling light-headed.
You'll be Feeling a burning sensation as your cutie’s head crowns. After a couple more contractions, his head will come through, then his shoulders and head will turn sideways before he is fully born.
Bubba will be Feeling a tight squeeze and getting ready to breathe. As he squeezes through the narrow birth canal, the pressure on his body pushes fluid and mucus out from his lungs and also prevents him from inhaling fluid and blood.
Help your little one Listen carefully to your midwife. She might ask you to withhold some pushes to coordinate them with your breathing. This can prevent a tear in your perineum (the area between the anus and genitals), which might happen if your baby comes too quickly. Plus, it’ll ensure a smooth delivery.