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Childbirth

Definition

Childbirth (also called labour, birth, or parturition) is the process at the end of pregnancy by which a fetus leaves the mother’s womb.

  • Majority of childbearing women are well and healthy. They can expect to have an uncomplicated pregnancy and birth, delivering healthy newborn
  • The duration of labour varies ( may lasts 13 hours for women giving birth for the first time and 8 hours for women who have given birth before)
  • Human childbirth is more difficult and painful for the mother than that of other mammals – because of relatively large size of the fetal skull and the shape of the pelvis

A typical childbirth is usually described in three stages

  • First stage
  • Second stage
  • Third stage


  • First stage of labour
    • Childbirth will begin at the onset of the first stage of labour
    • There will be contractions of the uterus, at first every 10-30 minutes and lasting about 40 seconds each
    • The uterine contractions will accelerate until they happen every two minutes
    • Each contraction dilates the cervix until it reaches 10 centimeters (4″) in width
    • The cervix is normally blocked by a mucosal plug which helps to prevent infection, and which has to be expelled before the birth process can begin (show)
    • This can be followed with the rupture or breaking of the membrane (“water bag”)
  • Second stage of labour
    • The fetus is expelled from the womb through the birth canal by both the uterine contractions and by powerful abdominal contractions (“bearing down”)
    • The baby is most commonly born head-first
    • With difficulty, babies can be delivered in the “breech” position where the baby’s rear is delivered first and the legs are folded onto the baby’s body. Nowadays, breech babies of first time mothers are usually delivered by caesarean section
    • Following the birth, the umbilical cord that connects the baby to its placenta (still within the uterus) has to be clamped and severed
  • Third stage of labour
    • The last stage of labour occurs about a quarter to a half-hour after the baby is born
    • In this stage, the placenta (the afterbirth) is expelled. The placenta is connected to the fetus via the umbilical cord which is composed of blood vessels and connective tissue

Summary of stages of labour

Complications occasionally arise during childbirth; this can require interventions such as instrumental deliveries using vacuum extraction or forceps and operative delivery or caesarean section.

If childbirth occurs among teenagers less than 14 years of age, it might be complicated by obstructed labour due to underdeveloped pelvic bones. Obstructed labour can lead to death of the fetus and mother, or cause damage to the surrounding pelvic organs.

Last Reviewed : 27 April 2012
Content Writer : Dr. Harlina Halizah bt. Hj. Siraj
Reviewer : Dr. Salmah bt. Nordin
: Dr. Nurizzati Bukhary bt. Ismail Bukhary