Labor Stages | Fit Pregnancy

Labor Stages

The Push Paradox


Conventional medical wisdom says the best way to send your baby out of the womb and into the world is with “coached” pushing: When your birth attendant announces it’s time, you tuck in your chin, tighten your abs, pull back your knees, take a deep breath, hold it and push for a count of 10, bearing down in this manner two or three times during each contraction. But a growing body of research suggests the conventional wisdom may be wrong, and that the healthier strategy is to follow your body’s cues and push spontaneously rather than following a coach’s count.

Be Prepared

You wouldn’t dream of running a marathon without training first. Such an intense athletic event requires mental, physical and emotional preparation. The same is true for childbirth: Knowing what can happen during labor and delivery—and your options for pain relief—can alleviate your fears and boost your confidence. “Knowledge is power,” says Sheri Bayles, R.N., a certified Lamaze instructor who taught childbirth classes at New York-Presbyterian Hospital in New York City for more than 20 years.

Preterm Labor or Preterm Contractions?

What's the difference between preterm labor and preterm contractions? It's all in the cervix, baby. If it changes, it's labor. If it doesn't, it's annoying. Sarah, 34 weeks pregnant with her first baby, has had contractions for a few weeks. They're not painful and yet there are enough of them that she wisely headed to the hospital for evaluation. 

What Hurts More, Contractions or Pushing?

Hillary emailed with a subject title reading, “I think my mom is lying to me.” She’s in the “planning to plan” for a pregnancy stage (AKA—not pregnant—never has been). She was chatting with her mom about all that goes into having a baby and asked about her own birth. Hillary’s mom was apparently a “natural woman” and didn’t have an epidural.

The Glamour of Labor

Lena wrote this week with a ton of questions—most of them having to do with peeing and pooping and other messy bodily functions. I love that you wrote, Lena. You're a girl after my own heart because this is the stuff people really want to know but feel way too "refined" to ask. Lena's expecting her second baby in a few weeks and had a rough go of it with her first. It sounds like she had a long labor with a lot of rectal pressure. She felt like she had to poop through her entire labor.

Pushing the Limits

Patti wrote with questions about her granddaughter's birth. She says her daughter pushed for a long time but once her nurse emptied her bladder, she delivered right away. Patti's daughter has some speech problems and she's worried this might've been caused by oxygen deprivation during delivery. It sounds like Patti thinks her daughter pushed too long and this may have had an adverse affect on her granddaughter. Though there's no way for me to know whether Patti's granddaughter's speech problems were caused by a birth injury, I can answer a few questions here.

How You'll Know

I had a patient a while back who was caught by surprise when I suggested her labor might last a couple of days before she had her baby. "But why? I'm in labor now, aren't I?" She was contracting but not "in labor." She was uncomfortable but not "in labor." "What's the difference?" she asked. The difference is in the intensity and effect of contractions. Though my patient was pretty convinced the regular, cramps she was feeling was labor, it wasn't until the next day that she knew what I really meant by "in labor."

What Happens When Your Water Breaks?

Most of us go through pregnancy worrying about a public watershed moment when our amniotic membranes will break with enough gush and rush to fuel a water park. I was so worried about it when my second was overdue (on the day I graduated from nursing school) that I wore double Kotex to walk across the stage and get my diploma.

What's Pitocin Really Like?

What do you do if you won't go into labor or your labor has stalled? What do you do if your baby has decided never to be born? What if your water has been broken for 24 hours and you still haven't had a contraction? How about if you've been 5 cm for 8 hours and your doctor is talking Cesarean? What do you do? Sounds like it's time for some vitamin P. That's Pitocin—the synthetic version of oxytocin. Oxytocin is the hormone that runs around your body to make your uterus contract. Under ideal circumstances, you'll make enough to squirt that baby out on your own.

No Silly Questions Part Two

Last week I answered Samantha's question about finding a good doctor and hospital and mentioned that both she and Natalie thought their questions were trivial. No they're not. They're the stuff we all think about. Thank you for asking. Believe me, you're only one of about 4 million women wondering the same thing. So, as promised, here's my answer to Natalie's question.