Childbirth is the process by which a pregnant woman delivers her baby into the world. The process begins with the baby moving lower into the pelvis and the beginning of contractions, or waves of pain that signal the start of labor. The cervix thins and opens up, and often the mucus plug that is blocking the cervix falls out. Amniotic fluid will begin to leak out, either in a gush or a slow trickle. These steps happen in different ways for different women, but they signal that the baby is ready to be born.
Labor has three stages: The first is the longest stage, and it involves the cervix fully opening to allow the baby to pass through. This might take many hours to occur. The second stage involves pushing and delivering the baby, and the third stage involves delivery of the placenta.
Childbirth varies from woman to woman, but it is almost always quite painful. Some women choose natural methods of childbirth, opting for natural means of coping with the challenges of labor and delivery. There are classes available to help with this process. In addition, there are also medical methods available for managing the pain during childbirth, including an epidural, which is a type of regional anesthetic that blocks the pain during labor.
In certain situations, such as when the baby is growing too slowly or the mother has a health complications, a health care provider might induce labor to begin the process of childbirth. Another birthing option that’s sometimes used in the event of complications is a cesarean delivery, often called a c-section. This is a major surgery in which the baby is removed through the mother’s abdomen.
Risks and Complications
Aside from the pain, which is a normal part of childbirth, a number of complications can occur during labor. For example, the water may break without labor beginning, or the mother can develop high blood pressure (preeclampsia). In such situations, inducing labor may be warranted. Sometimes, the baby may be in the wrong position, be showing distress or have problems with the location of the umbilical cord or the placenta. In those situations, health care providers might elect to perform a cesarean delivery.
SOURCES: U.S. Office on Women's Health