You will know when you are about to give birth because both you and your body will display some warning signs such as...
an urge to clean up the house in readiness for the arrival of the baby.
you may feel energetic and unsettled - wanting to keep on the move.
you may feel excited, anxious or nervous about the birth
you could lose some weight just before the birth
your baby could stop moving as its room in the womb is restricted from the position it has taken up towards your pelvis.
possibly a backache
The show - a small discharge of blood and mucus from your vagina
your waters will break - this is the sac that holds the amniotic fluid surrounding your baby.
If you have a constant flow of blood from your vagina - this is not normal and you should see your doctor immediately.
The First Stage
Your uterus tightens and relaxes its muscles to start your cervix opening up. At first they will be only slight. Your babys head moves towards the cervix, helping it to open.
Contractions may vary with each woman. In an ideal situation contractions which last 20 - 30 seconds will occur every 20 - 30 minutes. Some women do not notice the contractions until they are about 10 minutes apart.
Your cervix gradually dilates (opens). When it is about 3 cm dilated you are said to be in established labour. At this time your midwife or doctor will examine your vagina and check for any complications and other routine observations. As your cervix opens, your contractions will come more frequently and they will last longer. Your cervix will need to be 10cm wide before it is fully open.
Eventually your contractions begin to get much closer together and they can be quite painful and strong. This is the transition period. At this time you will more than likely be quite irritable, nauseous, trembling and you may feel a strong urge to push.
If your waters havent broken yet, this could be when they do. Your baby is nearly ready to be born.
The second stage
The second stage is usually a relief for many women as this is when the pushing can start.
The cervix is fully dilated and you will feel an urge to push the baby out. Your baby is moving down the birth canal. Your contractions will be lasting for about 5 or 6 seconds. This part of the process may last about an hour for first time mothers.
Once the babys head can be seen from the vagina, it is almost over. Resist the urge to keep pushing hard as you will rip the area between your vagina and anus - the perineum.
Try to breathe in short breaths to deliver your babys head. Once the head is out just let the rest of the body come out naturally.
Tell the doctors in advance that you want the child placed onto your stomach before the umbilical cord is cut. This helps with the bonding of the child to you. Hold the child as soon as you can.
The third stage
This is the delivery of the afterbirth or placenta. This is controlled by the doctor or midwife. Your uterus will continue to contract to get rid of this, but you will not be able to feel it. Sometimes the doctors will give you an infection to hurry this up to reduce the risk of serious bleeding after birth.
Most mothers will experience some mucus or bleeding from the vagina for a few weeks after childbirth.