stages of childbirth
In order to understand what happens during childbirth it is useful to know a bit about the anatomy of the womb.
The womb is a very large muscle that has one opening at the bottom, the cervix. The cervix has the shape of a spout leading to the vagina and is about 3-4 centimetres long and feels hard, like the end of your nose. The cervix is very strong, which is important because during pregnancy it prevents the child from dropping out of your womb.
During delivery, the cervix must first soften, more or less as soft as your earlobe. Then it must become shorter, from 3-4 centimetres long, it becomes as thin as a membrane. During pregnancy the womb leans backwards a bit and during delivery it will lean forwards. Then the cervix will open. This is called dilation. After that the womb and you will push the baby out, and after that also the placenta.
Delivery is divided into five stages:
- The latent phase: the cervix will become softer and shorter and begin to dilate
- The active phase: the contractions will grow stronger and longer and you will have a cervical dilation of about 5 centimetres
- The transitional phase: you will have about 8 centimetres dilation and the contractions are very strong with intense peaks
- The delivery: you have complete dilation and you can expell your child
- The afterbirth: the birth of the placenta