The ideal end to a pregnancy is the birth of a healthy baby in a natural way, i.e. by a normal vaginal delivery, where a baby arrives head first through the birth canal. A normal delivery is possible in most healthy pregnancies. Women with high-risk pregnancies who are monitored well throughout the pregnancy period may also be able to have normal deliveries; however this may not be the case in all high-risk pregnancies.
At the first sign of labour, call your physician and proceed to the hospital. Labour for a normal delivery may begin naturally at any time between the thirty-ninth to forty-first week. If the labour does not begin by the forty-second week the doctors may induce labour with medicines. The length of labour may vary from a few hours to more than twenty-four hours. The initial contractions are usually mild and occur at a gap of fifteen minutes or so. As the labour progresses the intensity of the contractions increase and the gap between the contractions decrease. The doctors at the hospital or birthing centre will monitor the progress of labour by checking the dilation of the cervix from time to time. During the first hours of labour, you may be able to move around during the gap between the contractions.
In the final stages of labour, the contractions become intense and there is very little gap between them. By the time the baby is ready to be born, the cervix would have dilated to the maximum extent. If you have attended pre-natal classes, then practising breathing and relaxing techniques taught there will help to keep calm and have an easy delivery. The baby is born with the head emerging first and subsequently, the shoulders and the rest of the body follow. Sometimes the doctors may use a vacuum extractor to help the head out. When such instruments are used this is known as an assisted vaginal delivery. Once the baby is out the umbilical cord is clamped and cut. The baby is stimulated and then usually placed on the mother.
After the baby is born, the placenta is spontaneously expelled from the uterus within ten to thirty minutes. The doctor ensures that no residues of the pregnancy remain in the uterus and that there is no abnormal bleeding.
In recent times, many people with normal healthy pregnancies opt for an elective surgical delivery. This way the mother can plan to have the baby on a certain date and also avoid a prolonged labour.
Both normal vaginal delivery and an elective surgical delivery are safe when handled by competent and experienced doctors and a woman can opt for either method to have her baby. The doctor, however, is the best person to advise as to the method that is most suitable for a particular patient.