Since you’ve probably been having Braxton Hicks contractions for weeks now, it can be difficult to determine when the real thing is actually beginning. Generally speaking, if you begin to have contractions that begin in the back and get worse over time, have a bloody show, or your water breaks, labor is imminent. You should call your doctor and begin making your way to the hospital. Even after labor begins, however, it could be many hours before your baby is delivered. Labor time varies widely among women and is typically longer for women who are having their first baby.
During labor, you will experience contractions that become more and more intense and frequent as your cervix dilates, making room for the baby to pass through. The pressure may trigger an urge to push, but you will be directed to resist this urge until your cervix is fully dilated, which could take some time. You will have the option to receive an epidural during this time which will enable you to deliver virtually pain-free. Once your cervix has fully opened, then you can begin pushing. Your doctor will ask you to wait until the contraction begins, take a deep breath, and then push as hard as you can until the contraction subsides. This pushing will help your baby make his way through the birth canal and into this world!
Once the baby is born, the doctor will clear his or her nose and mouth of amniotic fluid, the umbilical cord will be cut, and after the baby has been examined, you will be able to hold your newborn for the first time. Your little one may wish to begin breastfeeding right away, and if you’ve chosen to do so, you can often begin right in the delivery room. Before your baby is released from the hospital, the doctor will perform several screenings to ensure that your little one’s vital signs, hearing, and vision are normal.
Now, congratulations are truly in order. It’s been hard work, but you finally did it, and your little bundle of joy is all the reward you could ever hope for. During the weeks following delivery, allow yourself to recuperate while bonding with your baby. If at all possible, allow someone else to take over your household chores and limit visitors to your closest friends and family. This will no doubt be a joyous time for your family, but it will also be a time of great transition rife with around-the-clock feedings and late nights (and even mornings) as the baby gets adjusted to a normal sleep schedule. No matter how much you want to show your baby off, you will not feel like entertaining. It may be a good idea to allow your spouse to deal with any unwanted callers since you will no doubt have your hands full with the baby while simultaneously allowing your body to heal and get back to normal. In addition, some women experience a condition called postpartum depression—if you begin to experience sadness, crying spells, or general malaise that persists, contact your doctor right away. This is a common illness, but one that does require medical attention. Even if you do experience a temporary bout of depression, you’ll soon be on your way to a fulfilling life as a new mom!
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