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c  (also called 

,  , ¬  or ¬
 Ú is the culmination of a human
pregnancy or gestation period with the birth of one or more newborn infants from a woman's
uterus. The process of normal human childbirth is categorized in three stages of labour: the
shortening and dilation of the cervix, descent and birth of the infant, and birth of the placenta.[1]
In many cases, with increasing frequency, childbirth is achieved through caesarean section, the
removal of the neonate through a surgical incision in the abdomen, rather than through vaginal
birth. In the US and Canada it represents nearly 1 in 3 (31.8%Ú and 1 in 4 (22.5%Ú of all
childbirths, respectively. Childbirth is routinely treated as a medically-centered hospital event in
Western society, although prior to the 20th century it was a woman-centered event that occurred
at home.


Labour is accompanied by intense and prolonged pain. Pain levels reported by labouring women
vary widely. Pain levels appear to be influenced by fear and anxiety levels, experience with prior
childbirth, faction with the experience of childbirth than are other factors such as age,
socioeconomic status, ethnicity, preparation, physical environment, immobility, or medical
intervention from screaming but recommend moaning and grunting to relieve some pain.
Crowning feels like an intense stretching and burning sensation. Even women who show little
reaction to labor pains often display a reaction to crowning.


Childbirth can be an intense event and strong emotions, both positive and negative, can be
brought to the surface. While many women experience joy, relief, and elation upon the birth of
their child, some women report symptoms compatible with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSDÚ
after birth. Between 70 and 80% of mothers in the United States report some feelings of sadness
or "baby blues" after childbirth. Postpartum depression may develop in some women; about 10%
of mothers in the United States are diagnosed with this condition. Abnormal and persistent fear
of childbirth is known as tokophobia.Preventive group therapy has proven effective as a
prophylactic treatment for postpartum depression.Childbirth is stressful for the infant. In
addition to the normal stress of leaving the protected uterine environment, additional stresses
associated with breech birth, such as asphyxiation, may affect the infant's brain.


Because humans are bipedal with an erect stance and have, in relation to the size of the pelvis,
the biggest head of any mammalian species, human fetuses and human female pelvises are
adapted to make birth possible.

The erect posture causes the weight of the abdominal contents to thrust on the pelvic floor, a
complex structure which must not only support this weight but allow three channels to pass
through it: the urethra, the vagina and the rectum. The relatively large head and shoulders require
a specific sequence of maneuvers to occur for the bony head and shoulders to pass through the
bony ring of the pelvis. A failure of these maneuvers results in a longer and more painful labor
and can even arrest labor entirely. All changes in the soft tissues of the cervix and the birth canal
depend on the successful completion of these six phases:

1.? º    of the fetal head in the transverse position. The baby's head is facing across
the pelvis at one or other of the mother's hips.
2.? è   of the fetal head.
3.? J    . The fetal head rotates 90 degrees to the occipito-anterior position so
that the baby's face is towards the mother's rectum.
4.? è  . The fetal head passes out of the birth canal. Its head is tilted
backwards so that its forehead leads the way through the vagina.
5.? Î
 . The fetal head turns through 45 degrees to restore its normal relationship
with the shoulders, which are still at an angle.
6.? º   . The shoulders repeat the corkscrew movements of the head, which
can be seen in the final movements of the fetal head.

The fetal head may temporarily change shape substantially (becoming more elongatedÚ as it
moves through the birth canal. This change in the shape of the fetal head is called ñ  and is
much more prominent in women having their first vaginal delivery.

u ¬ 

The latent phase of labor, also called prodromal labor, may last many days and the contractions
are an intensification of the Braxton Hicks contractions that may start around 26 weeks gestation.
Cervical effacement occurs during the closing weeks of pregnancy and is usually complete or
near complete, by the end of latent phase. Cervical effacement or Cervical dilation is the thinning
and stretching of the cervix. The degree of cervical effacement may be felt during a vaginal
examination. A 'long' cervix implies that not much has been taken into the lower segment, and
vice versa for a 'short' cervix. Latent phase ends with the onset of active first stage; when the
cervix is about 3 cm dilated.

There are several factors that midwives and clinicians use to assess the labouring mother's
progress, and these are defined by the Bishop Score. The Bishop score is also used as a means to
predict whether the mother is likely to spontaneously progress into second stage (deliveryÚ.

The first stage of labor starts classically when the effaced (thinnedÚ cervix is 3 cm dilated. There
is variation in this point as some women may have active contractions prior to reaching this
point, or they may reach this point without regular contractions. The onset of actual labor is
defined when the cervix begins to progressively dilate. Rupture of the membranes, or a blood
stained 'show' may or may not occur at or around this stage

Uterine muscles form opposing spirals from the top of the upper segment of the uterus to its
junction with the lower segment. During effacement, the cervix becomes incorporated into the
lower segment of the uterus. During a contraction, these muscles contract causing shortening of
the upper segment and drawing upwards of the lower segment, in a gradual expulsive motion.
This draws the cervix up over the baby's head. Full dilatation is reached when the cervix has
widened enough to allow passage of the baby's head, around 10 cm dilation for a term baby.

The duration of labour varies widely, but active phase averages some 8 hours for women giving
birth to their first child ("primiparae"Ú and 4 hours for women who have already given birth
("multiparae"Ú. Active phase arrest is defined as in a primigravid woman as the failure of the
cervix to dilate at a rate of 1.2 cm/hr over a period of at least two hours. This definition is based
on Friedman's Curve, the gold standard for rates of cervical dilation and fetal descent during
active labor. The Friedman curve likely represents an ideal, rather than an average, curve. This
study does have limitations (e.g., assessment of cervical dilation is somewhat subjectiveÚ, and as
a result practitioners should use the Friedman Curve as a guideline rather than an absolute
indicator of protraction and arrest. Women who do not progress at this rate are in no way
"abnormal," as every birth is unique. Some practitioners misdiagnose "Failure to Progress,"
either out of impatience or inexperience, and perform an unnecessary Cesarean. However, as is
the case with any misdiagnosis, doing so is severely discouraged due to the extra expense and
healing time involved with Cesarean operations.

Sequence of cervix dilation during labor

cè  º 

Using sterile gloves and lubricant, perform a

vaginal exam and determine the dilatation and
effacement of the cervix. A small amount of
bleeding during the days or hours leading up to the
onset of labor is common and called "bloody

Dilatation is expressed in centimeters. I have

relatively large fingers, and for my hands, I make
the following generalizations:

6? 1.5 cm: One finger fits tightly through the cervix and touches the fetal head.
6? 2.0 cm: One finger fits loosely inside the cervix, but I can't fit two fingers in.
6? 3.0 cm: Two fingers fit tightly inside the cervix.
6? 4.0 cm: Two fingers fit loosely inside the cervix.
6? 6.0 cm: There is still 2 cm of cervix still palpable on both sides of the cervix.
6? 8.0 cm: There is only 1 cm of cervix still palpable on both sides of the cervix.
6? 9.0 cm: Not even 1 cm of cervix is left laterally, or there is only an anterior lip
of cervix.
6? 10.0 cm: I can't feel any cervix anywhere around the fetal head.

Effacement is easiest to measure in terms of centimeters of thickness, ie., 1 cm thick,

1.5 cm thick, etc. Alternatively, you may express the thickness in percent of an
uneffaced cervix...ie, 50%, 90%, etc. This expression presumes a good knowledge of
what an uneffaced cervix should feel like.


By abdominal and pelvic examination, determine the orientation of the fetus.

There are basically 3 alternatives:

6? Cephalic (head first, or vertexÚ

6? Breech (butt or feet coming firstÚ
6? Transverse lie (side-to-side orientation, with the fetal head
on one side and the butt on the otherÚ
‰ost of the time, the fetus will be head first (vertexÚ.

The easiest way for a relatively inexperienced examiner to

determine this presentation is by pelvic exam. The fetal head is
hard and bony, while the fetal butt is soft everywhere except
right over the fetal pelvic bones.

When the baby is presenting butt first, the presenting part is very
soft, but with hard areas within it (sacrum and ischial

If one or both feet are presenting first, you will feel them.

If you don't feel any presenting part (head or buttÚ on pelvic

exam, there is a good chance the baby is in transverse lie (or
oblique lieÚ. Then things get a little more complicated.

Transverse lie or oblique lie can be suspected if the fundal height measurement is less
than expected and if on abdominal exam, the basic orientation of the fetus is side-to-

‰ore experienced examiners can tell much from an abdominal exam.

‰aking a "V" with their thumb and index finger and pressing down just above the
pubic bone, they can usually feel the hard fetal head at the pelvic inlet.

u ¬  

Leopolds' maneuvers are used to determine the orientation of the

fetus through abdominal palpation.

1.? Using two hands and compressing the maternal abdomen, a

sense of fetal direction is obtained (vertical or transverseÚ.

2.? The sides of the uterus are palpated to determine the

position of the fetal back and small parts.

3.? The presenting part (head or buttÚ is palpated above the

symphysis and degree of engagement determined

4.? The fetal occipital prominence is determined.


With a pelvic examination, determine the status of the fetal membranes (intact or

A history of a sudden gush of fluid is suggestive, but not convincing evidence of

ruptured membranes. Sudden, involuntary loss of urine is a common event in late

Usually, ruptured membranes are confirmed by a continuing, steady leakage of

amniotic fluid, pooling of clear, Nitrazine positive fluid in the vagina on speculum
exam. Vaginal secretions are normally slightly acid, turning Nitrazine paper yellow.
Amniotic fluid, in contrast, is a weak base, and will turn the Nitrazine paper a dark

Dried amniotic fluid forms crystals (ferningÚ on a microscope slide. Vaginal

secretions do not.


Following admission, the hemoglobin or hematocrit may be useful.

Women with significant anemia are more likely to have problems sustaining adequate
uterine perfusion during labor. They also have less tolerance for hemorrhage than
those with normal blood counts.

Women with no prenatal care should, in addition, have a blood type, Rh factor, and
atypical antibody screen performed.

Other tests may be indicated, based on individual histories.


If the patient is in early labor, with a normal pregnancy, and intact membranes, she
may feel like ambulating and this is very acceptable.

Not all women in early labor feel like walking and she need not be forced out of bed.
Some patients, particularly those with ruptured membranes and those with certain risk
factors are probably better off staying in bed, even during early labor.

While in bed, it is preferable, in women without continuous electronic fetal

monitoring, to have them lie on one side or the other, but to avoid being on their back.
Such lateral positioning maximizes uterine blood flow and provides a greater margin
of safety for the baby.

Women with continuous electronic fetal monitoring may choose whatever position is
most comfortable. If there is a problem with uterine blood flow, it will be
demonstrated on the fetal monitoring strip and appropriate position changes can be

Recheck the maternal vital signs every 4 hours. Elevation of blood pressure may
indicate the onset of pre-eclampsia. Elevation of temperature >100.4 may indicate the
development of infection.

Because of the risk of vomiting and aspirating later in labor, it is best to avoid oral
intake other than small sips of clear liquids or ice chips. If labor is lengthy or
dehydration becomes an issue, IV fluids are administered. Lactated Ringer's or
Lactated Ringer's with 5% Dextrose at 125 cc/hour (6-hours for 1 LÚ are good choices.

Periodic pelvic exams are performed using sterile gloves and a water-soluble
lubricant. The frequency of such exams is determined by individual circumstances,
but for a normal patient in active labor, an exam every 2-4 hours is common. In active
labor, progress of at least 1 cm per hour is the expected pattern. If the patient feels
rectal pressure, an exam is appropriate to see if she is completely dilated.

Some women experience difficulty emptying their bladder during labor. Avoiding
overdistension of the bladder during labor will help prevent postpartum urinary
retention. If the patient is uncomfortable with bladder pressure and unable to void
spontaneously, catheterization will be welcomed.


Prior to active labor, the fetal heart rate for low risk patients is usually evaluated every
hour or two.

Once active labor begins for these women (4 cm dilated, with regular, frequent
contractionsÚ, the fetal heart rate is evaluated every 30 minutes. This can be done by
looking at the electronic fetal monitor (if usedÚ, or by measuring the fetal heart rate
following a contraction. Fetal jeopardy is likely if the auscultated fetal heart rate is
less than 100 BP‰, even if it later rises back to the normal range of 120-160.
Persistent fetal tachycardia (greater than 160 BP‰Ú is also of concern.

For women with significantly increased risks, it is better to evaluate the fetal heart rate
every 15 minutes during the active phase of labor.
Women in the second stage of labor (completely dilated but not yet deliveredÚ usually
have their fetal heart rate evaluated every 5 minutes until delivery.


Electronic fetal monitors continuously record the instantaneous fetal heart rate on the
upper channel and uterine contractions on the lower channel. They do this by
attaching, either externally (and non-invasivelyÚ or internally, to detect the fetal heart
and each uterine contraction.

A normal contraction pattern in active labor shows contractions occurring about every
2-3 minutes and lasting about 60 seconds.

The normal fetal heart rate baseline is 120-160 BP‰ and has
both short and long-term "variability." Short term variability
means that from one moment to the next, the fetal heart speeds
up slightly and then slows down slightly, usually with a range
of 3-5 BP‰ from the baseline.

Reduced variability occurs normally during fetal sleep and

Short Term Variability
usually returns after 20 to 40 minutes. It also may be present
with fetal anomalies or injury. Persistent or progressively
reduced variability is not, by itself, a sign of fetal jeopardy.
But in combination with other abnormalities (see belowÚ, it
may indicate fetal intolerance of labor.

Long-term variability represents broad-based swings in fetal

Long Term Variability
heart rate, or "waviness," occurring up to several times a
minute. One form of long-term variability of particular significance is a fetal heart
"acceleration." These usually occur in response to fetal movement, and are 15 BP‰
above the baseline or more, lasting 10-20 seconds or longer. They can often be
provoked by stimulating the fetal scalp during a pelvic examination, or by acoustically
stimulating the fetus with a loud, obnoxious noise. The presence of fetal accelerations
is reassuring that the fetus is healthy and tolerating the intrauterine environment well.

During labor, no significance is attached to the absence of fetal accelerations.

Tachycardia is the sustained elevation of fetal heart rate baseline above a 160 BP‰.
‰ost tachycardias are not indicative of fetal jeopardy. Causes include:


Early Deceleration

Variable Deceleration

‰ild and Severe Variable Deceleration

Late Deceleration

Prolonged Deceleration

Bradycardia is the sustained depression of fetal heart rate baseline below 120 BP‰.
‰ost of these are caused by increased vagal tone, although congenital cardiac
abnormalities can also be responsible.

‰ild bradycardia (to 80 or 90 BP‰Ú with retention of beat-to-beat variability is

common during the second stage of labor and not of great concern so long as delivery
occurs relatively soon. ‰oderate to severe bradycardia (below 80 BP‰Ú with loss of
beat-to-beat variability, particularly in association with late decelerations, is more
troubling and may indicate fetal distress, requiring prompt resolution.

Early decelerations are periodic slowing of the fetal heartbeat, synchronized exactly
with the contractions. These dips are rarely more than 20 or 30 BP‰ below the

These innocent changes are thought to be due, in many cases, to fetal head
compression within the birth canal.

Variable decelerations are variable in onset, duration and depth. They may occur with
contractions or between contractions.

Typically, they have an abrupt onset and rapid recovery (in contrast to other types of
decelerations which gradually slow and gradually recover.
Variable decelerations are thought to represent a vagal response to some degree of
umbilical cord compression. They are not caused by hypoxia, although if severe
enough, frequent enough and persistent enough, can ultimately lead to some degree of
fetal acidosis.

‰ild or moderate variable decelerations are common and not considered threatening.

‰ild variable decelerations do not dip below 70 BP‰ and last less than 30 seconds.

Severe variable decelerations dip below 60 BP‰ for at least 60 seconds ("60 x 60"Ú. If
persistent and not correctable by simple means, they can be threatening to fetal well-

Late decelerations are repetitive, gradual slowings of the fetal heartbeat toward the
end of the contraction cycle. They are felt to represent some degree of utero-placental

If persistent and not correctable, they represent a threat to fetal well-being.

Prolonged decelerations last more than 60 seconds and occur in isolation. Causes
include maternal supine hypotension, epidural anesthesia, paracervical block, tetanic
contractions, and umbilical cord prolapse.

Some of these are largely self-correcting, such as the deceleration following

paracervical block, while others (maternal supine hypotensionÚ respond to simple
measures such as repositioning.

Other causes (such as umbilical cord prolapseÚ require prompt intervention to avoid or
reduce the risk of fetal injury.


This stage begins when the cervix is fully dilated, and ends when the baby is finally born. As
pressure on the cervix increases, the Ferguson reflex increases uterine contractions so that the
second stage can go ahead. At the beginning of the normal second stage, the head is fully
engaged in the pelvis; the widest diameter of the head has successfully passed through the pelvic
brim. Ideally it has successfully also passed below the interspinous diameter. This is the
narrowest part of the pelvis.

If these have been accomplished, all that will remain is for the fetal head to pass below the pubic
arch and out through the introitus. This is assisted by the additional maternal efforts of "bearing
down" or pushing. The fetal head is seen to 'crown' as the labia part. At this point, the woman
may feel a burning or stinging sensation.
Birth of the fetal head signals the successful completion of the fourth mechanism of labour
(delivery by extensionÚ, and is followed by the fifth and sixth mechanisms (restitution and
external rotationÚ.

A newborn baby with umbilical cord ready to be clamped


Various cultures approach the pain of labor differently and individuals vary in their
responses to labor pains. Some women will need little or no help with pain relief,
while others will benefit from it. While no analgesic is 100% safe 100% of the time,
pain relief is generally very safe and provides for a much happier experience for the
woman and her family.

The following principles may be helpful:

6? A small number of women in labor will have virtually no pain and they do not
need any analgesia.
6? The majority of women will have moderate discomfort, particularly toward the
end of labor and they will generally appreciate some analgesia.
6? Some women will experience severe pain during labor and they will benefit
from your most intensive efforts.
6? Miving analgesics prior to the onset of active labor (before 4 cm dilatationÚ will
usually slow the labor process, although for some (those with a prolonged
latent phaseÚ, it may actually speed up labor.

Focused breathing (Lamaze techniquesÚ during contractions can be very helpful in

reducing or eliminating the need for pharmacologic analgesia. Hypnotherapy can
provide similar relief, as can massage therapy.
Narcotic analgesics can be highly effective at treating the pain of labor. They are
generally safe for the baby, although it is better to avoid large doses toward the end of
labor in order to avoid respiratory depression in the newborn. The greatest safety with
narcotics is achieved when an antagonist (naloxone or NarcanÚ is available to treat the
baby should depression appear. Mood dosages for this purpose include:

6? Dilaudid (butorphanolÚ 1-2 mg I‰ Q 3-4 hours

6? Dilaudid (butorphanolÚ 1 mg I‰ and 1 mg IV every 3-4 hours
6? Demerol (meperidineÚ 12-25 mg IV every 60-90 minutes
6? Demerol (meperidineÚ 50-100 mg I‰ every 3-4 hours
6? Demerol (meperidineÚ 50 mg plus Vistaril (promethazineÚ 50 mg I‰ every 3-4
6? ‰orphine 2.5-5 mg IV every 60-90 minutes
6? ‰orphine 7.5 - 15 mg I‰ every 3-4 hours

‰ore frequent, smaller doses are better than larger, less-frequent doses. Smaller doses
given IV are immediately effective, but wear off quickly. Whether that is an
advantage or disadvantage depends on how close the woman is to delivery and her
need for immediate pain relief.

Paracervical blocks (up to 20 cc of 1% Lidocaine in divided dosesÚ can stop the pain
of contractions for up to an hour and a half. Care must be taken to prevent excessive
fetal uptake of the Lidocaine, which can lead to fetal bradycardia.

Continuous lumbar epidural anesthetic is effective and versatile, but requires skilled
providers. In some settings, this can be very appropriate, but in other operational
settings, these resources may not be available.

Inhalation of 50% nitrous oxide with 50% oxygen, can give very effective pain relief
during labor and is safe for the mother and baby. It is safest when self-administered by
the mother, under the guidance of her birth attendant. If she feels dizzy or starts to
achieve anesthetic levels of the nitrous, she will naturally release the mask, reversing
the effects of the nitrous oxide.

Less commonly used is a self-administered volatilized gas of methoxyflurane. It is

capable of achieving anesthetic levels and so must be very closely monitored.
’  ¬ 

In this stage, the uterus expels the placenta (afterbirthÚ. The placenta is usually birthed within
15±30 minutes of the baby being born. ‰aternal blood loss is limited by contraction of the uterus
following birth of the placenta. Normal blood loss is less than 600 mL.


Sometimes, a small incision is made in the perineum to widen the vaginal opening,
reduce the risk of laceration, and speed the delivery.

There are two forms, midline and mediolateral.

A midline episiotomy is safe, and avoids major blood vessels and nerves. It heals well
and quickly and is reasonably comfortable after delivery.

If the fetal head is still too big to allow for delivery without tearing, the lacerations
will likely extend along the line of the episiotomy. Lacerations through the rectal
sphincter and into the rectum are relatively common with this type of episiotomy.

A mediolateral episiotomy avoids the problems of tearing into the rectum by directing
the forces laterally. However, these episiotomies bleed more, take longer to heal, and
are generally more uncomfortable after delivery.

In an operational setting, the major question is not so much where to put the
episiotomy, but whether to perform this procedure at all.

6? If you don't perform an episiotomy, you are increasing the risk of vulvar
lacerations, but these are usually (not alwaysÚ small, non-threatening
lacerations that will heal well without further complications.
6? If you perform a midline episiotomy, you will have fewer vulvar lacerations,
but the few you have are more likely to be the trickier 3rd and 4th degree
lacerations involving the anal sphincter and rectum.
6? If you perform a mediolateral episiotomy, you will avoid the 3rd and 4th degree
lacerations, but you may open the ischio-rectal fossa to contamination and
infection and increase the intrapartum blood loss.

The best approach is an individualized one, that takes into account your own training
and expertise, the clinical circumstances, and the operational circumstances.


Although the perineum of a full-term patient is stretchy and compliant, the passage of
a baby through the birth canal and vulva is usually uncomfortable. In a hospital
setting, anesthesia for the delivery might consist of:

6? Local infiltration
6? Pudendal block
6? Epidural
6? Spinal (saddle blockÚ
6? Meneral anesthetic

In many operational settings, the only available anesthesia for delivery will be local

Use 1% Lidocaine and inject just beneath the skin. Don't inject into the deeper tissues
because there are no significant numbers of nerves there.

Use 10-20 cc total. The maximum dose of Lidocaine you can give at any one time to
avoid Lidocaine toxicity is 50 cc of 1% Lidocaine. Try not to use the whole 50 cc for
the delivery as you may need more for the repair of any

c¬ c

After the baby is born, leave the umbilical cord alone until the
baby is dried, breathing well and starts to pink up. During this
time, keep the baby more or less level with the placenta still
inside the mother.

Once the baby is breathing, put two clamps on the umbilical cord, about an inch (3
cmÚ from the baby's abdomen. Use scissors to cut between the clamps.
If you don't have clamps and scissors, use anything available to
accomplish the same purpose.

In this example, the radio-opaque threads from a 4 x 4 gauze pad

have been removed and used to tie the cord before cutting it with
a pocket knife.


Anywhere from a few minutes after delivery to an hour later, the placenta will
separate and deliver.

While you are awaiting delivery of the placenta, don't pull on the cord or massage the
uterus to try and make it deliver more quickly. Pulling to vigorously on the cord, in
the right clinical setting, may lead uterine inversion (the uterus turns inside outÚ, a
very serious and dangerous complication.

‰assaging the uterus often only causes dis-coordinated contractions which slow a
clean shearing of the placenta.

As the placenta detaches and descends through the birth canal,

the woman will again feel contractions and the urge to bear
down. As she does this, the placenta will be expelled. ‰ake sure
all the fetal membranes come out with the placenta.

Inspect the placenta for completeness. If a portion is missing, she

will need to have her uterus explored and the missing piece

Also inspect the cord to make sure there are 3 blood vessels
present (2 arteries and 1 veinÚ. Two-vessel cords are associated with certain
congenital anomalies.


After delivery of the placenta, the uterus normally contracts firmly, closing off the
open blood vessels which previously supplied the placenta. Without this contraction,
rapid blood loss would likely prove very problematic or worse.

To encourage the uterus to firmly contract, oxytocin 10 mIU I‰ can be given after
delivery. Alternatively, oxytocin 10 or 20 units in a liter of IV fluids can be run
briskly (150 cc/hourÚ into a vein. Breast feeding the baby or providing nipple
stimulation (rolling the nipple between thumb and forefingerÚ will cause the mother's
pituitary gland to release oxytocin internally, causing similar, but usually milder

A simple way to encourage firm uterine contraction is with uterine massage. The
fundus of the uterus (top portionÚ is vigorously massaged to keep it the consistency of
a tightened thigh muscle. If it is flabby, the patient will likely continue to bleed.

Breastfeeding during and after the third stage, the placenta is visible in the bowl to the right.

The third stage can be managed either expectantly or actively. Expectant management (also
known as physiological managementÚ allows the placenta to be expelled without medical
assistance. Breastfeeding soon after birth and massaging of the top of the uterus (the fundusÚ
causes uterine contractions that encourage birth of the placenta. Active management utilizes
oxytocic agents and controlled cord traction. The oxytocic agents augment uterine muscular
contraction and the cord traction assists with rapid birth of the placenta.

A Cochrane database study suggests that blood loss and the risk of postpartum bleeding will be
reduced in women offered active management of the third stage of labour. However, the use of
ergometrine for active management was associated with nausea or vomiting and hypertension,
and controlled cord traction requires the immediate clamping of the umbilical cord.

Although uncommon, in some cultures the placenta is kept and consumed by the mother over the
weeks following the birth. This practice is termed placentophagy.

Refers to the relationship of the fetal presenting part to the level of the ischial spines. When the
presenting part is at the ichial spines the station is 0 (synonymous with engagementÚ. If the
presenting fetal part is above the spines, the distance is measured and described as minus
stations, which range from -1 to -4 cm. If the presenting part is below the ischial spines, the
distance is stated as plus stations ( +1 to +4 cmÚ. At +3 and +4 the presenting is at the perineum
and can be seen.(Pilliteri, Adele.(2009Ú. ‰aternal & Child health nursing:care of the childrearing
family. Lippencott Williams & Wilkins: New York.Ú


The "fourth stage of labor" is a term used in two different senses:

6? It can refer to the immediate puerperium, or the hours immediately after delivery of the

6? It can be used in a more metaphorical sense to describe the weeks following delivery.


‰others are often allowed a period where they are relieved of their normal duties to recover from
childbirth. The length of this period varies. In many countries, taking time off from work to care
for a newborn is called "maternity leave" or "parental leave" and can vary from a few days to
several months.


When the amniotic sac has not ruptured during labour or pushing, the infant can be born with the
membranes intact. This is referred to as "being born in the caul." The caul is harmless and its
membranes are easily broken and wiped away. In medieval times, and in some cultures still
today, a caul was seen as a sign of good fortune for the baby, even giving the child psychic gifts
such as clairvoyance, and in some cultures was seen as protection against drowning. The caul
was often impressed onto paper and stored away as an heirloom for the child. With the advent of
modern interventive obstetrics, artificial rupture of the membranes has become common, so
babies are rarely born in the caul.




Some women prefer to avoid analgesic medication during childbirth. They still can try to
alleviate labor pain using psychological preparation, education, massage, hypnosis, or water
therapy in a tub or shower. Some women like to have someone to support them during labor and
birth, such as the father of the baby, the woman's mother, a sister, a close friend, a partner or a
doula. Some women deliver in a squatting or crawling position in order to more effectively push
during the second stage and so that gravity can aid the descent of the baby through the birth

The human body also has a chemical response to pain, by releasing endorphins. Endorphins are
present before, during, and immediately after childbirth. Some homebirth advocates believe that
this hormone can induce feelings of pleasure and euphoria during childbirth, reducing the risk of
maternal depression some weeks later.

Water birth is an option chosen by some women for pain relief during labor and childbirth, and
some studies have shown waterbirth in an uncomplicated pregnancy to reduce the need for
analgesia, without evidence of increased risk to mother or newborn. Hot water tubs are available
in many hospitals and birthing centres.

‰editation and mind medicine techniques are also used for pain control during labour and
delivery. These techniques are used in conjunction with progressive muscle relaxation and many
other forms of relaxation for the mind and body to aid in pain control for women during
childbirth. One such technique is the use of hypnosis in childbirth.

A new mode of analgesia is sterile water injection placed just underneath the skin in the most
painful spots during labor. A control trial in Iran of 0.5mL injections was conducted with normal
saline which revealed a statistical superiority with water over saline.


Different measures for pain control have varying degrees of success and side effects to the
woman and her baby. In some countries of Europe, doctors commonly prescribe inhaled nitrous
oxide gas for pain control, especially as 50% nitrous oxide, 50% oxygen, known as Entonox; in
the UK, midwives may use this gas without a doctor's prescription. Pethidine (with or without
promethazineÚ may be used early in labour, as well as other opioids such as fentanyl, but if given
too close to birth there is a risk of respiratory depression in the infant.

Popular medical pain control in hospitals include the regional anesthetics epidural blocks, and
spinal anaesthesia. Epidural analgesia is a generally safe and effective method of relieving pain
in labour, but is associated with longer labour, more operative intervention (particularly
instrument deliveryÚ, and increases in cost. One study found that the women receiving epidural
analgesia had more fear before the administering of the epidural than those who did not receive
it, but that they did not necessarily have more pain. ‰edicine administered via epidural can cross
the placenta and enter the bloodstream of the fetus. Epidural analgesia has no statistically
significant impact on the risk of caesarean section, and does not appear to have an immediate
effect on neonatal status as determined by Apgar scores.


Augmentation is a procedure which attempts to speed up the process of labour. Oxytocin has
been to increase the rate of vaginal delivery in those with a slow progress of labor.


Obstetric forceps or ventouse may be used to facilitate childbirth.

6? The woman will have her legs supported in stirrups.

6? If an anaesthetic is not already in place it will be given.
6? Episiotomy might be needed.
6? A trial forceps might be performed, which is abandoned in favor of a caesarean section if
delivery is not optimal.


Twins can be delivered vaginally. In some cases twin delivery is done in a larger delivery room
or in the theatre, just in case complications occur e.g.

6? Both twins born vaginally - one comes normally but the other is breech and/or helped by
a forceps/ventouse delivery
6? One twin born vaginally and the other by caesarean section.
6? If the twins are joined at any part of the body - called conjoined twins, delivery is mostly
by caesarean section.


Lochia is the name for vaginal discharge following delivery. For several days, vaginal
bleeding will persist, similar to a heavy menstrual period ( 

 . Then, it will
thin and become more pale in color (  
  By the 10th day, it will take on a
white or yellow appearance due to the admixture of white blood cells (     If
it has a foul smell at any time, the odor suggests the presence of infection.

‰aternal temperature should be periodically assessed. Any persistent fever (>100.4

twice over at least 6 hoursÚ indicates the possibility of infection and should be

Blood pressure should also be checked several times during the first day and
periodically thereafter. Abnormally high blood pressure can indicate late-onset pre-
eclampsia. Low blood pressure may indicate hypovolemia.

For the first several days after delivery, the breasts produce a clear, yellow liquid
known as colostrum. For nursing mothers, colostrum provides some nutrition and
significant antibodies to their babies. Then, the breasts will swell (engorgeÚ with milk,
white in color, and containing more calories (fatÚ and volume. The initial engorgement
can be uncomfortable. Nursing relieves this discomfort. For women not breast-
feeding, firm support of the breasts and ice packs will help relieve the discomfort,
which will disappear within a few days in any event. Nipples should be kept clean and

It is important to establish bladder function early in the post partum phase. Because
bladder distention due to post partum bladder atony or urethral obstruction is
common, encourage the woman to void early and often. Any evidence of significant
urinary retention should be treated with catheterization and prompt resolution is
expected. When cleansing the vulva, avoid rectal contamination of the vagina or

Aftercramps are common, crampy pains originating in the uterus. They are less
common among first-time mothers, and more common when nursing. They are
annoying but not dangerous and will usually disappear within a few days.

Oral analgesics, such as acetaminophen with codeine, or ibuprofen are appropriate

and will ease the pain of vulvar lacerations, aftercramps, and the various muscle aches
related to a physically demanding labor and delivery. Rarely will these medications
need to be continued beyond the first few days.

Swelling of the hands, ankles and face in the first few days following delivery is
common, particularly if IV fluid have been given. In the absence of other indicators of
pre-eclampsia (elevated blood pressure and proteinuriaÚ, it is of no clinical
significance, but may be distressing to the patient. Reassure the patient that this is a
normal, expected event and will resolve spontaneously.

Rh negative women who deliver Rh positive babies should receive an injection of Rh

immune globulin (RhogamÚ to prevent Rh sensitization in later pregnancies. This is
best done within 3 days of delivery. In operational settings where the Rh type of the
infant is not known, it is safe to give Rhogam to all Rh negative women following
delivery. Those with Rh positive babies will benefit and those with Rh negative babies
will not be harmed.

After delivery, the mother needs time to rest, sleep, and regain her strength. She may
eat whatever appeals to her and can get up and move around whenever she would like.
Prolonged bedrest is neither necessary nor desirable. There are a few cautionary notes:

6? While she may be up walking, strenuous physical activity will increase her
bleeding and is not a good idea.
6? The first time she gets up, someone should be with her to assist in getting her
back down if she feels light-headed.
6? She may shower or bathe freely, but prolonged standing in a hot shower may
lead to dizziness, in this setting of borderline hypovolemia and vasodilatation.

After 3 weeks, the uterine lining is normally completely healed and a new
endometrium regenerated. At this point, most normal activities can be resumed,
although strenuous physical activity is usually restricted until after 6 weeks.
In normal circumstances, women can resume sexual activities whenever they feel like
it. ‰ost women won't feel like it for a while, and perineal lacerations generally take 4-
6 weeks to completely heal. Even then, intercourse may be uncomfortable, due to
residual irritation around any laceration sites, vaginal dryness due to the natural
estrogen suppression after delivery, or psychological factors surrounding resumption
of intercourse. Patients can be reassured that this is common, temporary, and very
much improved with the use of water-soluble lubricants, such as KY Jelly or

Oral contraceptive pills, if desired, can be started any time during the first few days
post partum and are compatible with breast feeding. Alternatively, their use may be
postponed until the 6-week examination, a common time for follow-up care.



Baby on warming tray attended to by her father.

There is increasing evidence to show that the participation of the woman's partner in the birth
leads to better birth and also post-birth outcomes, providing the partner does not exhibit
excessive anxiety. Research also shows that when a labouring woman was supported by a female
helper such as a family member or doula during labour, she had less need for chemical pain
relief, the likelihood of caesarean section was reduced, use of forceps and other instrumental
deliveries were reduced and there was a reduction in the length of labour and the baby had a
higher Apgar score (Dellman 2004, Vernon 2006Ú.

It has been found that fathers can have different roles during birth and that little is said about the
conflicts between partners or partners and professionals. Among other findings were also: the
interpretation of the presence of fathers during birth as a modern version of the anthropological
couvade ritual to ease the woman's pain; the majority of fathers did not perceive any limitation to
participate in their childbirth and upper generations did not play an important rule in the
transmission of knowledge about birth to those fathers but the wives, feminine acquaintances and

The research was based, mainly, on in-depth interviews, where fathers described what was
happening from their partner¶s first signals of birth labour until the placenta delivery.
It's possible to collecting two types of stem cells during childbirth: amniotic stem cells or
umbilical cord blood stem cells. To collect amniotic stem cells is necessary to do amniocentesis
before or during the birth. Amniotic stem cells are multipotent and very active, useful both for
autologous or donor use. There are private banks in US, the first is Biocell Center in Boston.

Umbilical cord blood stem cells are also active, but less multipotent than amniotic. There are a
lot of banks of cord blood, both private and public and for autologous or eterologous use.

c ¬ 
u  ¬ 

The second stage of labor may be delayed or lengthy due to:

6? malpresentation (breech birth (i.e. buttocks or feet firstÚ, face, brow, or otherÚ
6? failure of descent of the fetal head through the pelvic brim or the interspinous diameter
6? poor uterine contraction strength
6? active phase arrest
6? cephalo-pelvic disproportion (CPDÚ
6? shoulder dystocia

Secondary changes may be observed: swelling of the tissues, maternal exhaustion, fetal heart rate
abnormalities. Left untreated, severe complications include death of mother and/or baby, and
genitovaginal fistula. These are commonly seen in Third World countries where births are often
unattended or attended by poorly trained community members.


!    "
 with visible tears or episiotomies are common. Internal tissue tearing as
well as nerve damage to the pelvic structures lead in a proportion of women to problems with
prolapse, incontinence of stool or urine and sexual dysfunction. Fifteen percent of women
become incontinent, to some degree, of stool or urine after normal delivery, this number rising
considerably after these women reach menopause. Vaginal birth injury is a necessary, but not
sufficient, cause of all non hysterectomy related prolapse in later life. Risk factors for significant
vaginal birth injury include:

6? a baby weighing more than 9 pounds

6? the use of forceps or vacuum for delivery. These markers are more likely to be signals for
other abnormalities as forceps or vacuum are not used in normal deliveries.
6? the need to repair large tears after delivery
 ¬ . Hormones and enzymes work together to produce ligamentous relaxation and
widening of the symphysis pubis during the last trimester of pregnancy. ‰ost girdle pain occurs
before birthing, and is known as diastasis of the pubic symphysis. Predisposing factors for girdle
pain include maternal obesity.

J  remains a major cause of maternal mortality and morbidity in the developing world.
The work of Ignaz Semmelweis was seminal in the pathophysiology and treatment of puerperal
fever and saved many lives.

   # or heavy blood loss, is still the leading cause of death of birthing mothers in the
world today, especially in the developing world. Heavy blood loss leads to hypovolemic shock,
insufficient perfusion of vital organs and death if not rapidly treated. Blood transfusion may be
life saving. Rare sequelae include Hypopituitarism Sheehan's syndrome. The maternal mortality
(‰‰RÚ rate varies from 9/100,000 live births in the US and Europe, to 900/100,000 live births in
Sub-Saharan Africa. Every year, more than half a million women die in pregnancy or childbirth.



Risk factors for fetal birth injury include fetal macrosomia (big babyÚ, maternal obesity, the need
for instrumental delivery, and an inexperienced attendant. Specific situations that can contribute
to birth injury include breech presentation and shoulder dystocia. ‰ost fetal birth injuries resolve
without long term harm, but brachial plexus injury may lead to Erb's palsy or Klumpke's

Neonates are prone to infection in the first month of life. Some organisms such as S. agalactiae
(Mroup B StreptococcusÚ or (MBSÚ are more prone to cause these occasionally fatal infections.
Risk factors for MBS infection include:

6? prematurity (birth prior to 37 weeks gestationÚ

6? a sibling who has had a MBS infection
6? prolonged labour or rupture of membranes

Untreated sexually transmitted infections are associated with congenital and perinatal infections
in neonates, particularly in the areas where rates of infection remain high. The overall perinatal
mortality rate associated with untreated syphilis, for example, approached 40%.


Infant deaths (   from birth to 28 days, or 

  if including fetal deaths
at 28 weeks gestation and laterÚ are around 1% in modernized countries. The "natural" mortality
rate of childbirth²where nothing is done to avert maternal death²has been estimated as being
between 1,000 and 1,500 deaths per 100,000 births. (See main article: neonatal death, maternal
The most important factors affecting mortality in childbirth are adequate nutrition and access to
quality medical care ("access" is affected both by the cost of available care, and distance from
health servicesÚ. "‰edical care" in this context does not refer specifically to treatment in
hospitals, but simply routine prenatal care and the presence, at the birth, of an attendant with
birthing skills.

A 1983-1989 study by the Texas Department of Health highlighted the differences in neonatal
mortality (N‰RÚ between high risk and low risk pregnancies. N‰R was 0.57% for doctor-
attended high risk births, and 0.19% for low risk births attended by non-nurse midwives.
Conversely, some studies demonstrate a higher perinatal mortality rate with assisted home births.
Around 80% of pregnancies are low-risk. Factors that may make a birth high risk include
prematurity, high blood pressure, gestational diabetes and a previous cesarean section.

J ¬

Intrapartum asphyxia is the impairment of the delivery of oxygen to the brain and vital tissues
during the progress of labour. This may exist in a pregnancy already impaired by maternal or
fetal disease, or may rarely arise    in labour. This can be termed  
, but this
term may be emotive and misleading. True intrapartum asphyxia is not as common as previously
believed, and is usually accompanied by multiple other symptoms during the immediate period
after delivery. ‰onitoring might show up problems during birthing, but the interpretation and
use of monitoring devices is complex and prone to misinterpretation. Intrapartum asphyxia can
cause long-term impairment, particularly when this results in tissue damage through


‰odel of pelvis used in the beginning of the 20th century to teach technical procedures for a
successful childbirth. ‰useum of the History of ‰edicine, Porto Alegre, Brazil

Doulas are assistants who support mothers during pregnancy, labour, birth, and postpartum. They
are not medical attendants; rather, they provide emotional support and non-medical pain relief
for women during labour.
‰idwives provide care to low-risk pregnant mothers. ‰idwives may be licensed and registered,
or may be lay practitioners. Jurisdictions with legislated midwives will typically have a
registering and disciplinary body, such as a College of ‰idwifery. Registered midwives are
trained to assist a mother with labour and birth, either through direct-entry or nurse-midwifery
programs. Lay midwives, who are usually not licensed or registered, typically gain experience
through apprenticeship with other lay midwives.

‰edical doctors who practice obstetrics include categorically specialized obstetricians; family
practitioners and general practitioners whose training, skills and practices include obstetrics; and
in some contexts general surgeons. These physicians and surgeons variously provide care across
the whole spectrum of normal and abnormal births and pathological labour conditions.
Categorically specialized obstetricians are qualified surgeons, so they can undertake surgical
procedures relating to childbirth. Some family practitioners or general practitioners are also
privileged to perform obstetrical surgery. Obstetrical procedures include cesarean sections,
episiotomies, and assisted delivery. Categorical specialists in obstetrics are commonly dually
trained in obstetrics and gynecology (OB/MYNÚ, and may provide other medical and surgical
gynecological care, and may incorporate more general, well-woman, primary care elements in
their practices. ‰aternal-fetal medicine specialists are obstetrician/gynecologists subspecialized
in managing and treating high-risk pregnancy and delivery.

Obstetric nurses assist midwives, doctors, women, and babies prior to, during, and after the birth
process, in the hospital system. Some midwives are also obstetric nurses. Obstetric nurses hold
various certifications and typically undergo additional obstetric training in addition to standard
nursing training.


In most cultures, a person's age is now defined relative to their date of birth. Historically, in
Europe age was once counted from baptism.

Some families view the placenta as a special part of birth, since it has been the child's life
support for so many months. Some parents like to see and touch this organ. In some cultures,
parents plant a tree along with the placenta on the child's first birthday. The placenta may be
eaten by the newborn's family, ceremonially or otherwise (for nutrition; the great majority of
animals in fact do this naturallyÚ.