Labor & Birth – How Is a Baby Delivered?

By BSc, MSc (embryologist) and BA, MA (fertility counselor).
Last Update: 04/10/2014

The labour is the process through which a baby is born and the pregnancy is put to an end. The beginning of the labor is characterized by strong, regular contractions and the dilation of the cervix. Many pregnant women are afraid of this moment, specially the first-time mothers because they don't know how is this experience going to be like.

Below you have an index with the 3 points we are going to deal with in this article.

Different types of labour

Traditionally, when people talk about labour they refer to natural or vaginal delivery. However, there are other types of delivery.

  • Natural or vaginal delivery: the baby is born through the vagina because the mother pulls her out. The woman adopts the lithotomy position where she is lying on her back and her feet at above or at the same level as the hips. However, there is controversy surrounding this posture because in a natural birth the mother should be standing on her feet so that the gravity can help her give birth to her child.
  • Forceps delivery: used in vaginal deliveries where difficulties appear because the mother cannot pull and the baby does not come out. Forceps are a surgical instrument that resembles a pair of tongs and are put in the baby's head to take her out. However, the use of forceps is not usual nowadays.
  • Caesarean section: also known as abdominal delivery and is performed by surgery. It is more usual in high-risk deliveries or in multiple pregnancies.
  • Premature labour: or preterm labour. The baby can come in any of the three aforementioned situations but before week 37 of gestation. These babies can have health problems depending on how early they come.

Length of labour

The length of the labour depends on each case but, usually, it takes between 6 and 15 hours. The labor begins with the first contractions until the cervical effacement -its length shortens- and the cervix dilates. From 1.57 inches the dilation becomes more active and the contractions are stronger and more frequent. When the cervix is 3.93 inches, the baby is ready to come out.

It may take between 2 and 8 hours for the baby to come, so it is necessary that the mother pulls as hard as possible. For first-time mothers this process can be longer than for mothers who have given birth before.

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 Cristina Mestre Ferrer
Cristina Mestre Ferrer
BSc, MSc
Bachelor's Degree in Biological Sciences, Genetics & Human Reproduction from the University of Valencia (UV). Master's Degree in Biotechnology of Human Assisted Reproduction from the UV and the Valencian Infertility Institute (IVI). Embryologist at IVI Barcelona. More information about Cristina Mestre Ferrer
Adapted into english by:
 Sandra Fernández
Sandra Fernández
Fertility Counselor
Bachelor of Arts in Translation and Interpreting (English, Spanish, Catalan, German) from the University of Valencia (UV) and Heriot-Watt University, Riccarton Campus (Edinburgh, UK). Postgraduate Course in Legal Translation from the University of Valencia. Specialist in Medical Translation, with several years of experience in the field of Assisted Reproduction. More information about Sandra Fernández

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