Stages of pregnancy and labor
Different Stages of Pregnancy
There are different stages – Pregnancy / Labor as outlined below.
Fertilization of female egg cell
Pregnancy starts with conception, starting with an ovum or egg being shed from a woman’s ovary on about 12-16 day of her menstrual periods, and becoming fertilized by the male cell or sperm, usually in the outer end of the Fallopian tube.
The fertilized egg is carried down the tube and becomes attached to the wall of the womb. This happens a few days before the next monthly period is due, and it stops the monthly period.
A visit to doctor becomes imminent in order to ensure the pregnancy. The doctor will do the examination and will advise on do’s and don’ts. The doctor will also guide on any problems or concerns you may have.
The support from baby’s father and/or family friend can be of great help during pregnancy, labor and birth.
Early Development – Embryo
You can approximate the baby’s birth by counting nine calendar months plus seven days from the first of the last monthly period.
After the fertilization, the egg moves down the Fallopian tube and gets divided into two cells and keeps on dividing further rapidly to form a solid ball of cells. This ball of cells is called embryo. The embryo becomes attached to the side wall.
As soon as the embryo is attached, the tissue surrounding it starts to produce hormones which hep the pregnancy to continue.
Placenta is formed from the part of the embryo which is attached to the womb. This is also attached to the baby’s naval as umbilical cord. The umbilical cord carries oxygen and nourishment to the baby and also disposes off the waste through the mother’s body.
In early pregnancy the mother may feel a little tired and irritable, or sick on the stomach. This is called morning sickness, but may occur at any time of the day or night. This is caused by the changes taking place in the mother’s body.
12 Weeks Pregnancy
The cord and the outer layer of embryo are clearly seen. This outer layer forms a sac which surrounds the baby. This is called amniotic sac. It is filled with liquid which protects the baby while it is growing in the womb.
At about 20 weeks after fertilization the baby which is called foetus begins to move. The first movement are felt as flutters also known as “the quickening”. It is important to note the time these movements are first felt, as they occur half way through pregnancy and helps in deciding the correct dates.
16 Weeks Pregnancy
The top of the womb is about the level with the mother’s navel. The womb increases in size as the baby grows. By 40th week after the pregnancy starts the baby fills the abdomen. The becomes ready to be born. The mother is said to be at term.
The image shows the baby in a late stage of pregnancy. The muscle of the cervix or neck of the womb becomes strong and thick. During pregnancy this muscle remains contracted so as to keep the womb closed.
When labor starts, the neck of the womb stretches as a result of the contractions of the muscle of the womb. These contractions are irregular and occur at intervals of about 20 to 30 minutes. Cramps are felt in the stomach with backache at times.
As the neck of the womb opens, the plug of jelly-like material becomes dislodged and passes through the birth canal on to the underwear or into the toilet when passing urine. It is usually blood-stained and this is called “the show”. This is the sign of the beginning of labor.
During labor, the baby’s heart rate is checked regularly and the mother may be examined by the gynecologist to see the progress of the labor.
Three Stages of Labor
First Stage of Labor
During the first stage of labor, the contractions become stronger and frequent until the neck of the womb becomes fully open. The relaxation and breathing exercises learned in pre-natal classes are very helpful at this time.
Sometimes pain-relief medications are administered during this stage. Local anesthetic would be placed in the uterus to provide the relief.
The sac that holds the water bulges in front of the baby’s head as the neck of the womb starts to stretch. The sac usually breaks as soon as the neck of the womb is fully open. At times, it may break before the beginning of the labor. On other occasions, it may not break until the head is born.
The second stage of labor begins as soon as the neck of the womb is fully open. The woman now feels the desire to push down. During this stage the baby passes through the birth canal. The mother takes deep breath, tightens the muscle of the abdomen and pushes the baby down.
Second Stage of Labor
In late second stage the top of the baby’s head is partly outside the birth canal. The head is said to be “crowned”. The birth is gently controlled by the doctor or midwife. The mother takes short panting breaths, until the head is delivered.
Shoulders Ready for Delivery
The baby’s head is fully outside the birth canal. The head is born. It now turns sideways as the shoulders come down the birth canal and within minutes the baby is born.
At this time the mother is given an injection which results in contraction of uterus and the placenta is pushed out.
The baby is labeled with the mother’s name immediately following the birth, till the time of discharge.
At birth, the baby is usually a little blue in color but with the baby’s first cry it turns into healthy pink.
At birth, the cord pulsates at the rate of baby’s heart beat. The baby receives oxygen and nourishment through the blood passing this cord. As soon as the baby takes the first breath, the cord stops throbbing. It is then tied and cut. This is neither painful for the mother nor the baby.
The newborn is covered with a white slippery material called vernix which protects the baby when in womb and also assists in passage during birth.
Third Stage of Labor
In few minutes, the uterus will contract. This is the third stage of labor during which the afterbirth becomes detached and is pushed out from the womb. When this happens labor is over.
Returning to normal
The womb returns to its normal size within six weeks of delivery. The healing process is complete by the time the bleeding stops. It is advisable to avoid sexual intercourse till the time the blood-stained discharge as stopped.
Various muscles are stretched considerably during pregnancy and labor, especially those of abdomen and vagina. For abdomen, sit-ups and leg-raising is recommended and for the pelvic floor buttock-tightening is very good. There are Different stages – pregnancy / labor which a pregnant mother needs to be aware of.