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What is Normal Delivery?
A vaginal delivery is childbirth that happens when the baby is pushed down the birth canal and delivered through the vagina. Every labor and delivery is different. How long labor and delivery lasts and how it progresses varies depending on previous births, the position of the baby’s head, and the size of the baby and the birth canal. There are, however, general stages of labor and delivery that a healthcare provider uses to decide whether it is progressing normally for a vaginal delivery. The 3 stages of labor are:
First stage: The cervix opens and thins to full dilation. The average woman in her first labor may dilate about 1 cm per hour during the active phase of labor. If you have had a baby before, the cervix usually dilated faster.
Second stage: The baby moves through the birth canal and is born. This stage of labor usually lasts 15 to 75 minutes but may last as long as 2 or 3 hours.
Third stage: The placenta (afterbirth) passes through the birth canal and is delivered. This usually happens within 30 minutes after the birth of the baby.
Signs and Symptoms of Normal Childbirth
A young healthy woman can comfortably go through normal childbirth. Active lifestyle, normal blood pressure and position of the foetus are all indicative of a normal delivery.
Between 30 to 34 weeks, the foetus changes position to a cephalic or head down position ready for delivery. When viewed, it looks as if the baby’s position has moved down.
The urge to urinate will increase as the pressure from the baby’s head presses down the pelvic region and squeezes the bladder.
There will be an ache in the lower back as the foetus starts putting pressure on it (lower back). This because the foetus is positioning itself to get into the cephalic (Head down) position.
You may notice an increase in the vaginal discharge. It could be white or pink and sometimes even a bit bloodstained. It is a usual sign of a healthy, normal pregnancy.
Upset bowel movement is caused as there is a surge in the hormonal activity. There might be some cramps and discomfort due to this.
Soreness of the breasts is also indicative of normal childbirth. As you reach the final stage, it may feel heavy and uncomfortable.
The breaking of the water bag usually takes place during labour. Sometimes it might happen even before the onset of labour. The doctor’s advice should be taken immediately.
What are the benefits of normal vaginal delivery?
The benefits of vaginal delivery include:
Short hospital stays
Low infection rates
Quick recovery compared to caesarean
Babies have a lower risk of suffering from respiratory problems
No post-surgical haemorrhaging
What are the risks of normal vaginal delivery?
The risks a mother may face before and during the normal vaginal delivery include:
Rupture of the uterus
Fetal distress (for example reduced oxygen supply to the baby)
Tears in the perineum, i.e. the soft tissue between the vulva and the anus
Umbilical cord prolapse which occurs when the cord comes out before the baby
If the mother suffers from any infections, it may be passed on from the mother to the child
The baby is emerging buttocks/feet first (breech position)
The baby is emerging shoulder first
There is more than one baby
The size of the baby is big
Cephalopelvic disproportion (when a baby cannot fit through a pelvis due to the small size of the mother’s pelvis)
Undetected placenta previa, meaning the placenta covers the cervix
How long does it take to recover from a normal vaginal delivery?
The vagina tends to remain sore and tender for a period of at least two weeks after a normal vaginal delivery. You should be able to recover your energy within seven to 10 days. Complete recovery, especially if you experienced perineum tear while delivering, may take six weeks and a little more depending on your overall health condition. Please check with your doctor about how soon you can start exercising after a normal vaginal delivery as it depends on your overall health condition. You can, however, start doing the exercises soon after delivery, albeit gently.