What Happens During Birth?

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During birth, the doctor or midwife guides the mother through the process of labor, telling her when to push and how hard to push, until the baby is born. Understand the step-by-step process of a healthy vaginal birth with helpful information from a certified nurse-midwife in this free video on pregnancy.

Part of the Video Series: Pregnancy Information
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Video Transcript

The time of birth, what actually happens right at that moment? This is Mavis Schorn, I'm a nurse midwife and professor at Vanderbilt University School of Nursing and I'll just kind of walk you through a typical, normal, healthy vaginal birth. Now at that point whether you are totally unmedicated or whether you have an epidural and you may have pushed for a few contractions or you may have been pushing for two to three hours, but the time of birth, your vagina continues to stretch and open and the baby continues to crown. Your body is totally meant for that baby to come through there and it just continues to stretch. The baby's head will emerge slowly through there, your midwife or doctor will help guide you at that point as to how hard to actually push when the baby's emerging. They may also have you in positions that help either slow or speed up that particular part depending on what else is going on. The baby's head comes out and then your doctor or midwife will be checking to make sure there's no cord around the baby's neck and then will help you get your baby's shoulder, one shoulder and the other shoulder out and as the baby comes out, you can reach down or you can ask ahead of time, make sure it's OK with your health care provider, but you can reach down and help to get your baby and bring you baby up to you and put your baby right up on top of you. It is common to dry the baby right there, we can look at the baby, how the color is and you can watch how this baby is transitioning to being on the outside. Colors changing, heartbeat is good, starting to cry, looking around and right in the warmest place is next to your skin. Dry the baby, keep the baby covered up there and continue to take a look at the baby. Now there's still another piece that hasn't happened. The baby's out, there's still an umbilical cord and it's still attached to a placenta that is inside you. So after a few minutes, and we see that the baby's transitioned well on the outside, its common then to go ahead and cut the cord, it can wait until the cord is quit pulsing if that would be your preference, but really we want to make sure that the baby has transitioned OK before we do that. We can clamp the cord and let you or your partner, somebody else cut that cord but then yet again we still have that placenta inside. So your focus is going to be on your baby, but your midwife or physician may guide you a little bit in pushing some to get the placenta out. It placenta will come out anywhere between 5 and 30 minutes commonly and it's feels a little pressure just like the baby, but then all the sudden you realize it's not as much as pushing that baby out and then it's out. And then the last thing is making sure that your bleeding is under control and whether or not you have any kind of trauma, any kind of tears that need repairing and that's when your midwife or doctor will go ahead and take care of that. Your focus and your husband or other family members that are there, your focus just is on the baby at that point and it takes about 15 to 30 minutes afterward before your baby's ready to breastfeed if that's in your plan too.


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