According to The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Current English, the word ‘labour’ could be defined as the process ofchildbirth, especially the period from the start of uterine contractions to delivery.
Labour is actually the culmination of pregnancy. It is the last stage of pregnancy from the time when the muscles of the womb start to push the baby out of the body until the baby appears. Contractions let you know labour is starting. When your contractions are five minutes apart, your body is ready to push the baby out.
The process of normal 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.
As painful as it may seem, labour is a period every expectant mother excitedly, anxiously or fearfully (especially for first time mothers)looks forward to. I call it the ‘grand finale’ of the gestation period. It is a period that heralds the arrival of your bundle of joy after your hard work of nine months.
Labour usually begins spontaneously, about 280 days after conception, but it may be started by artificial means if the pregnancy continues past 42 weeks gestation. The average length of labour is about 14 hours for a first pregnancy and about eight hours in subsequent pregnancies. However, many women experience a much longer or shorter labour.
During labour, mothers and babies are monitored closely. Most women are healthy enough to have a baby through normal vaginal delivery, meaning that the baby comes down the birth canal without surgery. However, if there are complications, the baby may need to be delivered surgically by a Caesarean section.
Finally, here is a word of advice for expectant mothers. Labour should be seen as the final test you need to pass in order to receive an incredible reward. Unlike all other tests, it should not be approached with nervousness or fear. However, whenever fear raises its ugly head, here is a prayer for you to recite. If you believe it shout ‘amen’.
The Labour Psalm
The Midwife is my shepherd; I shall not want.
She maketh me to lie down in the labour ward:
She leadeth me in the progression of labour, she calmeth my fears.
She leadeth me in the paths of contractions, for herjob’s sake.
Yea, though I push through the valley of the birth canal, I will fear no evil:
For thou art with me; thy pethidine and thy epidural
They soothe my pains.
Thou preparesta bed before me in the presence of electronic monitors:
Thou anointest my lungs with Entonox; my head spinneth round.
Surely my baby and bundle of joy shall follow me
All the days of my life:
And I will dwell in Motherhood forever.