While labor is a natural process, there are times when a doctor needs to intervene.Medical intervention may be necessary if:
- a woman has an infection in the uterus
- the baby is more than 2 weeks overdue, and active labor has not begun
- the water has broken, but there are no contractions
- underlying medical conditions will complicate delivery for the mother or baby
A doctor may apply a medication that contains prostaglandin to soften the cervix and promote dilation.
A process called membrane stripping may help. It involves a doctor or midwife rubbing their fingers against the membranes of the amniotic sac to release prostaglandin into the uterus and help the cervix dilate.
Women interested in natural birth may avoid medical intervention until it is necessary.
This stage has three phases.
In the first phase, the cervix dilates to 3 cm. The baby drops lower into the pelvis, and this increases the levels of prostaglandin in the body, which stimulates dilation.
The mucus plug that has sealed the opening of the uterus during pregnancy will fall away.
Capillaries in the cervix can rupture during this stage and cause bloody discharge known as the bloody show. This is normal.
The next phase is active labor, when the cervix will dilate further. Some doctors mark the end of this phase when the width of the cervix reaches 7cm. Others use contractions as a guideline.
The final step in this stage, called the transition phase, lasts until the cervix dilates to 10cm.
The second stage of labor begins when the cervix dilates to 10 cm and ends with delivery. The length of time can vary from woman to woman, and a variety of factors influence it.
In this stage, the doctor will deliver the placenta and cut the umbilical cord.
In some situations, a doctor may use medical methods to encourage dilation.
However, there are a number of natural ways to promote dilation before and during labor. It is often a good idea to find ways to relax.
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