For most mothers-to-be, childbirth is the finish line after a nine-month journey. The big day ideally arrives between 37 and 42 weeks of pregnancy. No matter how excited and ready pregnant mothers are, childbirth is both miraculous and frightening. Today, mothers have many options when it comes to how they want to give birth. Keeping an open mind and focusing on the arrival of your new baby can remove some of the trepidation from the birth experience.
Every delivery is unique, but most labors and deliveries follow the same pattern. The first stage includes two phases: early and active. During early labor, the cervix thins out, then dilates or opens so that the baby can pass through. Then, active labor begins; the contractions intensify as the baby moves into the birth canal. In the second stage, which starts at about 3 to 4 cm dilation, the woman reaches full dilation of 10 centimeters, and she can begin pushing or bearing down. The baby is born during the third stage, and, finally, the mother expels the afterbirth, placenta, and membranes.
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