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Normal pregnancy and birth
















What happens in a normal pregnancy?

All pregnancy experiences are different, so if yours does not pregnancy follow a textbook pattern don't worry - the term 'normal pregnancy' covers a wide range of experiences. As a general guide, though, pregnancy is divided into 3 time periods called 'trimesters':

  • First trimester (1-12 weeks) - during this first stage of pregnancy your hormones will be changing, which can cause mood swings, and feelings of elation, depression, anxiety. You may also get food cravings and nausea or vomiting.Your waistband may feel a bit tighter, but probably won't show very much at this stage. By week 12 baby will be about 3 inches long, and have fingers and toes.

  • Second trimester (13-25 weeks) - nausea usually lessens, but you may start to get heartburn, tummy twinges, tender breasts and constipation. Your tummy will start to 'look pregnant', and you will begin to feel movements from about 18-22 weeks. By the end of this trimester baby is up to 14 inches long and has hair, fingernails and eyelashes.

  • Third trimester (26-40 weeks) - baby is really starting to show now! Heartburn, backache, poor sleep and swollen ankles are all quite common. You may also need to pee more often, and may have episodes of incontinence. Baby is developing further and getting ready for the big day.


What happens during a normal birth?

All births are different, and so you should not become too worried if your experience does not follow a 'textbook' pattern. As a general guide, though, an average birth pathway may be divided into three stages:

  • Stage 1 - this stage begins with contractions, which will last for 30-60 seconds and be spaced apart by up to 20 minutes. These contractions will become more frequent, and last longer until they are only spaced apart by a couple of minutes. The contractions can bring on lower abdominal cramp and pain, and lower backache is also a common occurrence. The waters often break at this stage, the quantity of flow varying from a small leak to a sudden large flow. The cervix is also dilating, and is completely dilated at the end of stage 1.

  • Stage 2 - in this stage, the baby moves through the birth canal to be delivered. You will have the urge to push down, which will help baby through the canal. Controlled pushing and breathing will really help in this stage, which have hopefully been practiced before the event. Occasionally baby may need some help and forceps may be used to assist the delivery. Once baby's head gets to the vagina, it may sting as the vagina is stretched. Pausing at this point allows the vagina to stretch; occasionally, the vagina skin does not stretch enough, which can cause a small tear. If the birth specialist feels that this may happen, then they may perform an episiotomy, which is a small cut in the vagina skin, extending from the vagina downwards or diagonally into the buttock. Once the head is delivered, the contractions may stop for a minute or so. The contractions then start again to deliver the shoulders and the rest of baby slides easily out after.

  • Stage 3 - once baby is born, the contractions stop for about 15-20 minutes. They then restart to expel the placenta, but are much less intense than stage 2 contractions. The placenta is then delivered, usually in one piece. The attending specialist will check the birth canal for any evidence of retained placenta; if placenta is retained, then an anaesthetic may be needed to allow the remaining placenta to be removed. When the placenta is freed from the uterus, bleeding is limited by the uterus contracting and squeezing blood vessels closed. A medicine called 'Syntocinon' is often given, which helps speed up placenta delivery and reduces bleeding.

Once baby is born, the cord is clamped and cut and the specialist will check baby's general condition. Oxygen may sometimes be given to help with breathing in the first few minutes, and once the team is happy that all is well, then they can leave you to get to know your new family member!

Occasionally the team may need to assist in the birth - this may involve being induced, being helped with forceps or vacuum delivery, or needing a Caesarian section. Your specialist may occasionally plan one of these procedures, such as being induced, in advance. Sometimes, though, it may only become apparent that you need one of these procedures once you have started giving birth.


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Any procedure involving skin incision can also result in unfavourable scarring, wound infection, or bleeding. This list of risks is not exhaustive, and you should discuss possible complications with your specialist. Whilst these risks will seem very worrysome, and indeed can be serious, it should also be borne in mind that many people have no postoperative problems whatsoever.

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