If you're a new mother, giving birth can be an exciting, or terrifying, thing to think about.
You know what to expect as far as pregnancy goes. The cravings, the kicking, the hormonal and bodily changes, all of it. But what about when the bun's ready to come out of the oven?
Giving birth can seem like a daunting task, and more often than not, it can be traumatic.
The best way to get through giving birth is to prepare yourself mentally.
So what exactly are you preparing yourself for, you may ask?
For starters, the pain that can come when your contractions begin. What they feel like varies from person to person, but we can offer you a general description of what to expect.
A Cramp, But Not In Your Style
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Contractions are a little thing that happens when your uterine walls contract to help your baby get into position. Contractions start off feeling like tightening and hardening around your stomach, slowly building up over time.
They may begin to feel like intense menstrual cramps -- and that's putting it lightly.
You will more than likely experience Braxton Hicks contractions, which are false labor pains. These will come and go at irregular intervals, as compared to actual labor pains.
Here's what you need to know:
When you begin to go into labor, you'll more than likely experience back pain in addition to the rest of the pain spanning across your stomach, which may stem from the baby's position.
If your baby faces upwards, it can cause additional pressure on your nerves, causing even more pain. The term for this is occiput posterior.
The Squeeze On Contractions
There's no need to panic.when your contractions start! The first thing you should do is remain calm. Trust us, it'll be easier for both you and your baby.
The next thing you should do is time your contractions. The closer together they are, the sooner you'll be giving birth.
This is what you should do:
You should also call a pet sitter or babysitter if need be. If you have a dog or another child at home already, you'll want them well taken care of as you work to bring home the newest addition to your family.
Another something you'll want to do is dress comfortably. Yes, I'm sure that top you bought looks super cute, but you're going to be sweaty and sore by the time everything's over. Bring lots of loose-fitting clothes, for both you and your baby.
And don't forget:
The last thing you'll want to do before heading to the hospital is making sure you've remembered your baby's car seat. This is an extremely important step, which we'll get into again later.
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You may also want to call your doctor before or as you head to the hospital to let them know that you're having labor pains. Or better yet, let your partner do that. You'll want to focus on breathing through the pain. Calling ahead will allow the hospital staff to prepare for your arrival.
Once you've arrived at the hospital, you'll want to head straight for labor and delivery.
A nurse will take you to a triage room, where you'll have a fetal monitor put on your stomach. The fetal monitor will keep an eye on your baby's heart rate to make sure everything is going smoothly, and your little munchkin isn't in distress.
The nurse will also measure your contractions, making sure they're the real deal. And since this is a hospital, you'll probably get an IV put in.
But that's not all:
If your water has already broken, your nurse will take a swab to test the fluid to make sure it's amniotic fluid.
They will also want to give you a cervical check to see how dilated you are, if at all.
If your water hasn't broken yet, the doctors may use a long hook to break your water for you. That will feel odd, but probably won't be painful.
If you're not sent home like on America's Next Top Model, you'll be admitted, if you so choose. However, if you were wheeled into the hospital screaming and clearly ready to begin giving birth, you'll be admitted immediately.
Hold Onto Your Baby Hats
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When your contractions worsen, you'll know it. By this point, you'll have been assigned a nurse to help you out as you go about giving birth. The doctors will ask you about what you would like as far as painkillers go, and the most common options are an epidural, and nitrous oxide. Keep in mind that each hospital may vary as far as painkillers go.
An epidural is where they, in a nutshell, use a needle to inject pain medication at the base of your spine. This is the most common method. This will numb you from the injection site down, aside from allowing you to feel pressure when you need to push.
An option similar to an epidural is something called a spinal block, also called a spinal. A spinal is where they take a needle filled with a narcotic or anesthetic and inject it directly into your spinal fluid. This can provide pain relief for a few hours, and is most commonly used, when it comes to giving birth, in C-sections.
Another option is nitrous oxide. But we're not talking about removing teeth today, oh no. We're removing a small human. Nitrous oxide won't take all your pain away, but it may take the edge off, and allow you more control. You can hold the face mask yourself, take breaths when you need it, things like that.
After a certain amount of time, whether you've had a drug administered or not, you'll likely be ready begin giving birth. There are two methods for giving birth, and those are a caesarian section, and vaginally. Both come with their perks, and both have their dangers.
To C Or Not To C
So, what exactly is a C-section, anyway?
A caesarian section is a surgical procedure where doctors make an incision under your belly button, but above your pubic bone, cut into your womb, and remove the baby. C-sections are most commonly administrated when the mother or baby are in distress.
You may need a c-section for several reasons, including; A narrow birth canal, the baby's position for labor, problems with mom's health, like high blood pressure, and even problems with the placenta.
That's not all:
Another reason lots of mothers receive c-sections is if they had a difficult time giving birth vaginally to their last child, and their life or their baby's life, had been at stake. However, c-sections aren't some magical procedure to remove the baby pain-free.
A c-section will allow you to remain awake and alert, yes, but it may be painful afterward, as it is major abdominal surgery. Thankfully, to cope with this, you will have pain killers, along with anti-inflammatory medication to help keep your pain at bay while you spend time with your baby. But keep in mind that it will most likely take you even longer to recover from giving birth and limit your mobility for an even longer period.
VBAC To Basics
If you end up having a c-section, planned or not, you'll most likely have another c-section with your next child, should you choose to have one. If not, then you need to learn a little about a VBAC. This little nugget of knowledge is crucial information to have for when- or if- you have your next child. VBAC stands for Vaginal Birth After Caesarian, meaning that you may be able to choose between a Vaginal birth and caesarian.
A VBAC works the same way as a classic vaginal birth. The reason for the fancy name is so the doctors know that you've had your uterus cut into before, and they can make extra preparations.
Keep in mind:
A VBAC may not be an option at every hospital for insurance reasons. The reason for this is that there are increased risks associated with it, like a uterine rupture.
However, before you're able to deliver via VBAC, you'll undergo a trial of labor after caesarian section (TOLAC). If your trial of labor is successful, you'll most likely be able to deliver vaginally.
Oh Baby, Baby
Okay, Britney Spears, If you hadn't planned for or need a c-section, now is the time for getting to what you've been waiting for: actually giving birth. Once fully dilated to 10 centimeters, which is the size of a coaster, your doctor will instruct you when to push.
Your doctor will instruct you when to push and when to stop in order to safely guide the baby's head through. After a certain amount of pushing, your baby will begin to crown. Crowning is what occurs when your baby's head is visible from the vaginal opening without slipping back inside.
Once you begin to crown, you may experience burning as the head passes through, stretching the opening. This is referred to as "The Ring of Fire." Which many people experience. When you feel this, it's important to stop pushing, as you could risk tearing.
The Ring of Fire only lasts a short while, as the vaginal skin will be stretched so thin, you'll temporarily go numb. After this stage, you'll most likely deliver the baby smoothly, and without problems.
When Push Comes To Shove
But while you begin to push, your body can have several reactions.
Remember these symptoms:
You may experience nausea, for which they will either administer anti-nausea drugs or just simply give you something to empty your stomach into.
And because the entire lower half of your body will be under enormous pressure, there will naturally be pressure on your colon. You may end up soiling yourself, which is common. There's no need to feel embarrassed, though. If you do have a bowel movement, it just means you're using the right muscles to push.
Getting Down To Business: Giving Birth
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After your baby has finally arrived, and you have a chance to catch your breath, the doctors will lay the baby on your chest to allow you to see them before they take them to be weighed, take their APGAR score, and have their birth certificate written up.
In case you were wondering what exactly an APGAR score is, it's a test they'll give your baby to make sure they're healthy. APGAR stands for Appearance, Pulse, Grimace, Activity, and Respiration.
They'll give your baby a score between zero and ten, which further helps them determine whether your baby needs immediate medical attention or not.
In the event the baby is not placed on your chest right away, there may be a slight complication.
That can be a number of things, including having to do with the baby's breathing or color. They will place the baby in a warmer in the room and call doctors from NICU. Keep in mind that this may not be the case, as every hospital is run differently.
You and your baby will be together for the next few hours in the delivery room to make sure both of you have stable vitals. But before all of that, you have one last task. Delivering the placenta.
A Place For Placenta
You'll more than likely be exhausted by the time you've finished giving birth, but there's still the placenta to deliver.
The placenta is an organ that grows within the uterus over the course of your pregnancy. It helps provide oxygen and nutrients to your baby and removes waste from your baby's blood. This is also where the baby's umbilical cord attaches. The placenta attaches to the uterine wall.
Delivering the placenta may require you to push as you continue to have mild contractions, or your doctor will gently massage your abdomen to encourage your uterus to do the work for you.
If you've had a c-section, The placenta will be removed by your doctor along with the baby.
Setting Up Camp
After giving birth, you're going to get the chance to know your baby and begin to bond. Roughly two hours after delivery, You and your baby will be wheeled to your postpartum room.
There, you'll be able to rest, bond, and even give breastfeeding a try, if that's your style. It's the healthiest way to feed your baby, anyway.
You'll stay in the hospital for about two days if you had a vaginal birth, and four if you had a caesarian. Throughout your stay, your doctor will check in on you daily, as well as a pediatrician to make sure your baby is doing well.
A lot of hospitals, thankfully, have policies which state that the mom and baby are not to be separated unless you need a rest to take care of yourself. In that case, you can have your baby taken to the nursery if you need to.
The final thing to know about your hospital stay is that the entire time, you're going to be sore. You should focus on drinking lots of fluids, and making sure both you and your baby are eating right.
Sticks And Stones
The pain you'll experience after a vaginal birth can vary. If you didn't experience tearing, You will more than likely be sore for three to five weeks, as you'll be stretched and bruised.
If you suffer tearing or need an episiotomy, you'll have stitches, and will most likely experience burning.
The stitches will take seven to ten days to heal, and even after the wound heals, you'll be sore and experience discomfort for several weeks.
And then there's the c-section, which is a whole other animal. Like any other surgery, you'll be in a lot of discomfort. Immediately after giving birth, not only will it be impossible to walk for several hours, but you'll also remain numb over that course of time. Because of this, women even have to have a catheter put in.
No matter your situation down there, you're going to be hurting, and will most likely have discomfort or pain for weeks. One handy little gizmo the hospital gives you is something called a peri bottle. Since it will hurt to wipe after going to the bathroom, you can use the peri bottle to clean yourself off with warm water.
And we haven't even touched on the mental pain you may be in. One in nine new mothers suffers from postpartum depression. The hospital may have mental health professionals ready to help you cope with and get through your depression, and other times, you may have to set up therapy yourself.
As For The Munchkin
After your baby is born, there's no telling how they will begin acting once they're out in the real world. Some babies will be up and down every few hours, while others may sleep through the night. It all depends on the baby's personality.
One thing that you can definitely expect is crying. Newborns cry for a long list of reasons and have no other way of voicing when they are hungry, upset, afraid, cold, or need a change of diaper.
Another thing you can expect is for your baby to be hungry. A lot. Babies have small stomachs that can't keep them sustained for long. Your baby will most likely need to eat every two hours in the beginning.
Penny For Your Thoughts
When the time comes for you to check out of the hospital and begin your journey home, you're probably going to have a lot of questions, and that's perfectly fine! This shows that you want to take care of your little one the best you can. Feel free to ask your doctor any questions you may have- no matter how silly you may think they are.
A few good questions to ask before leaving the hospital are:
- Who do I contact in an emergency regarding my baby?
- How do I recognize post-partum panic attacks?
- Can I get the contact information for medical staff?
- What are my basic care instructions for my baby?
And on top of questions, you'll need to remember a few additional things. Those are; your baby's birth certificate, to load up on freebies from the hospital, and to obtain the cost of treatment.
The Journey Home
And now, after everything, you finally get to take your baby home. Be sure to dress your baby in accordance with the weather. For example, If it's a bit chilly out, be sure to strap your baby into their car seat first, adding blankets after they're secured.
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Your baby's car seat is the most important factor of the car ride back home. You want to make sure your baby's car seat is good quality, not past its expiration date, and properly secured in the backseat.
We know you will want to hold your little bundle of joy on the car ride home, but keep in mind that your baby's safety is the ultimate priority here. No matter how short the distance is, it's illegal for a reason.
Feeling Infant-Antly Better
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Congratulations! You've made it through giving birth, and now have an adorable new addition to your family. You're more than likely to forget all the pain and strife you went through to bring your baby into the world as you focus on caring for them.
It's normal to have mixed feelings about bringing your baby home, and many mothers suffer from post-partum depression, as mentioned earlier. Another thing you may go through is a detached feeling. Don't worry; you'll find yourself cooing over your little one as you get to know them. All it takes is a little time.
What was your experience giving birth for the first time like? Do you have any adorable names or advice to share? Tell us about it in the comments below!