As pregnancy progresses the mother prepares for the moment that the child leaves her abdomen. Even if it is not her first child the forthcoming birth will always be accompanied by a certain amount of tension.

It is not known what precise mechanism works to induce birth. Many factors, such as the stretching of the walls of the womb, the placenta, changes in the hormone levels in the blood and the breaking of the waters are all known to play a role. From an obstetric point of view birth commences when painful contractions start to occur at five minute intervals, together with the loss of a mucous plug from the entrance of the womb and the breaking of the waters.

Birth is an exhausting experience for mother and baby alike. From the warm and sheltered womb contractions push the baby through the birth canal into the outside world. The flexibility of the bones in the baby’s skull enable the head to adjust to the birth canal and to become as small as possible. Once the child has entered the outside world, it will make its presence known by crying out. The physical connection with the mother’s body is broken with the cutting of the umbilical cord. Once the placenta has been delivered, birth can be considered complete.

Birth is a major life event just teeming with emotions, now shared by mother and father alike.

After a pregnancy of about nine months, the child has grown so much that any further development can only take place in the outside world. The time of birth is thus imminent. Although for many women giving birth is approached with a certain amount of trepidation, adequate preparation will allay most fears. Indeed, some women experience childbirth as a pleasant, even uplifting, experience.

The process of giving birth, from start to finish, is called labour. This is divided into three different and distinct stages. During the first stage the cervix (neck of the uterus) gradually opens up (dilates) until it is wide enough for the baby’s head to pass through into the birth canal.

In the second stage the baby is pushed along the birth canal and out into the world. The placenta (afterbirth) is expelled some minutes later, marking the end of the third stage, and the end of labour.