The first stage of labour begins with the dilation of cervix. During this phase you may experience various symptoms. Here is what you must know about the first stage of labour and its symptom.
Dilation refers to the cervix opening and effacement and thinning of cervix in pregnancy that starts with labour and delivery drawing close. Well, you need to be informed that the timing tends to vary from one woman to the other. For some woman the whole process is slow and it often takes few weeks. Again, there are also cases when woman had dilated overnight. Take a quick look at some of the common concerns of women related to dilation of cervix.
What happens in the first stage of labour?
The first stage involves the 3 phases of labour - early, active and transitional phases which end with the dilation of the cervix. This stage can spread over a period of days or weeks, without noticeable labour or can cover a period of 2-24 hours of obvious contractions, which usually last about 30-45 seconds. They are usually mild or slightly strong and could be fairly irregular, ranging anywhere between 5-20 minutes apart.
What will I experience?
You may experience menstrual like cramps, backache, indigestion, diarrhoea or maybe a slightly bloody discharge. A warm sensation in the abdomen is also indicative of this early stage.
Will I be in a lot of pain?
Even though it is the longest phase, it is thankfully also the least intense, and consists of the opening and thinning of the cervix to about 3 cms. You will need to go to the hospital at the end of this phase or the beginning of the next. Until then, relax and make yourself comfortable.
You could try diverting your mind by going about your usual routine or you could solve a puzzle or play a game. But whatever you do, do not lie on your back as this will only slow down labour and may reduce blood supply to the baby. And certainly do not touch an aspirin. You could eat a light snack if you are hungry, but avoid having a heavy meal as it will lead to increased discomfort later. Please do not start your breathing exercises in this phase.
What are the causes behind dilation?
Your cervix prepares for delivery by offering an opening from your uterus to your birth canal. This unblocks the exit route of your child.
What you must know?
In the initial months your healthcare provider shall look for clues that hint on your labour nearing. Internal checks and palpating your abdomen shall include checking of your cervix.
Dropping of the baby in the birth canal
Your healthcare provider shall also check if your baby has "dropped" and if the cervix has dilated and effaced. She shall see if the cervix has become soft and your baby has moved in front of your vagina. These are considered indicators that your labour is getting closer. These indicators shall help your healthcare provider guess how soon you can expect your baby. Make sure to remain patient all through the process and rely on your doctor for a healthy and trouble free delivery.
Loosening of the mucus plug
As your cervix continues to open and becomes thin, the mucous "cork" that acts as a seal on the cervix shall get dislodged. It might not always be possible for you to notice this; it can either happen few weeks before labour or hours before labour starts. You may see blood oozing out within few days before the day of your delivery as the cervix ruptures. The vaginal mucous shall be tinted with blood now.
The mucus plug on the cervical opening prevents bacteria from entering your uterus. When the cervix starts thinning and opening, the plug falls down automatically. This is another sign of labour, which however does not come with a guarantee. Your labour may still take few weeks or days to start. When your contractions get stronger even if you are changing positions, you will know it is the time for arrival of your little one.
Increase in Vaginal Discharge:
Bleeding or light spotting in the 37th or 40th week shall be taken as an early sign of labour. If you feel your bleeding is heavier than the vaginal discharge, you must get in touch with your doctor as early as possible. Too much of bleeding may also be a sign of something serious.
Your cervix shall efface and dilate all through the process. In the initial phase your cervix shall dilate 3cm and by the time you are in active labour, it shall increase to around 7cm. By the end of the transitional phase your cervix shall measure 10cms. Your doctor may tell you to start pushing your baby now.
What you can do?
Since your body has now taken charge, there is not a thing that you can do. You need to look for the labour signs once you get a rough estimate about arrival of your baby. You need to prepare yourself to visit the hospital now. In case there are certain risk factors involved or your labour stalls, your healthcare provider can take necessary steps to induce labour and move the process ahead.
For further queries and concerns, you may get in touch with your doctor. Proper information shall help you know what to expect and keep you better prepared.
What is dilation of cervix? What are the signs that labour has started? What happens during the first stage of labour and delivery? Discuss here.
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- The Indiaparenting Team