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
Transferring microbes from the mom to her infant born via C-section comes with infection risk
Season of delivery and other factors may influence the risk, study finds
Too short or too long may up discomfort, study suggests
Study found it increased chances of having a normal delivery
Women had similar outcomes whether they got the anesthetic or a 'dummy' placebo
It may be potentially dangerous, researchers say
No reason to delay this type of birth control after having a baby
Strong support networks increase chances a woman will reveal her symptoms, study says
Shot should come within 24 hours of delivery, and not at first checkup
Biggest effects seen for younger women with older men
Preterm deliveries and births to older moms are up, report finds
Yearly price tag for their care now tops $300 million, researchers report
Pills women don't use may end up in the wrong hands, researchers suggest
Teens whose mothers smoked may have issues with thinking skills, study shows
Data from 2014 also shows that more older women are having children, study finds
Consumer Reports finds rates vary from 7 to 64 percent across U.S.