The Role of Labour Support in Childbirth Journey
By Dr. Nutan Pakhare
Childbirth is a remarkable and transformative experience in a woman’s life. The journey of bringing new life into the world involves three distinct stages. Each stage holds its own challenges and milestones, and proper labour support can greatly enhance the birthing experience. In this blog, we will explore the three stages of childbirth. We will also explore the importance of labour support, and how yoga classes can provide valuable guidance during this incredible journey. For example, yoga classes can help mothers-to-be to gain strength, flexibility, and relaxation techniques to use during labour, which can be especially helpful during the pushing stage of childbirth.
Stage 1: Baby’s Descent, Crowning, and Water Break
The first stage of childbirth marks labour’s onset. It begins with the baby’s descent into the birth canal. As the baby moves downward, the amniotic sac may rupture, resulting in “water breaking.” Contractions become more frequent and intense during this stage. For instance, contractions during early labour maybe 20 minutes and last only 60 seconds. In contrast, late labour contractions may be only three minutes apart and last up to 90 seconds.
It is imperative to note that the experience of this stage may differ for first-time mothers (primigravida) and those who have previously given birth (multigravida). Primigravida women often experience a longer duration of this stage as their bodies undergo the process for the first time. However, for multigravida women, this stage can progress relatively faster. For example, primigravida women can experience an average active labour stage lasting 8-14 hours, while multigravida women can achieve an average active labour stage duration of 6-8 hours.
Pushing at this stage should occur when contractions naturally prompt the urge to exert force. The presence or absence of an epidural can influence pushing. With an epidural, the pressure sensation may be stronger, like a strong urge to push down. Without an epidural, the pressure sensation may be milder and more manageable.
Proper posture during pushing is crucial to take advantage of gravity and optimize birth. Various positions can be adopted, such as standing on the wall, sitting, or squatting. The position that suits the mother best depends on her comfort and pelvis and sacrum alignment. For instance, squatting can help the mother bear down and the baby’s head enters the pelvis more easily. In contrast, a semi-squatting position can be effective for mothers with a large baby or a history of perineal tears.
Stage 2: Pushing and Birthing the Baby
The second stage of childbirth involves active pushing to guide the baby through the birth canal. Controlled and conscious breathing techniques are helpful at this stage. Breathing deeply and rhythmically can focus and ease discomfort. The second stage of labour can be as short as 20 minutes or as long as a few hours. However, it may be longer for first-time moms or if the mother has had an epidural.
The duration of this stage can vary, depending on several factors such as the mother’s physical condition, the baby’s position, and the strength of contractions. Primigravida women often spend more time at this stage as their bodies adjust to the process. Multigravida women may progress faster. On average, the active (pushing) part of labour is two hours for primigravida women and may be shorter for multigravida women.
Stage 3: Baby Delivery and Afterbirth
The final stage of childbirth involves the delivery of the baby and the expulsion of the placenta. Once the baby is born, the umbilical cord is cut, and the focus shifts to delivering the placenta. Contractions continue to facilitate the detachment and expulsion of the placenta and any remaining membranes. For instance, the placenta is usually delivered within 10-20 minutes of the birth of the baby, although in some cases it may take up to an hour.
After the birth of the placenta, healthcare professionals assess the mother’s condition and ensure any necessary measures are taken to promote recovery and bonding with the newborn. As Amy Tan, author of The Bonesetter’s Daughter, wrote: “A mother is always at the beginning.” She is how things begin.”
The Role of Labour Support and Yoga Classes
Labour support plays a vital role in providing physical, emotional, and informational help during childbirth. Supportive partners, family members, or trained professionals can offer comfort, reassurance, and advocacy, creating a positive and empowering environment for the mother.
Labour-support yoga classes can be immensely beneficial during pregnancy and childbirth. These classes offer personalized guidance, helping expectant mothers connect with their bodies, practice relaxation techniques, and learn effective breathing exercises. Yoga promotes flexibility, strength, and endurance, preparing women for labour’s physical demands. It also enhances mental and emotional well-being, reducing anxiety and stress. As Amit Ray, a yoga practitioner and researcher, once wrote: “Yoga is the expression of awareness on the canvas of body, mind, and soul.”
By joining labour support yoga classes, mothers-to-be can develop a deeper understanding of their bodies and build the confidence necessary for a successful and fulfilling childbirth experience.