Merck Manual

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Quick Facts

Delivery

By

The Manual's Editorial Staff

Last full review/revision Oct 2020| Content last modified Oct 2020
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Labor is the first stage of childbirth. During labor the muscles of your womb (uterus) squeeze over and over to open your cervix and push your baby out. These squeezes are called contractions.

Delivery includes the second and third stages of childbirth. Delivery of the baby is the second stage. Delivery of the afterbirth (placenta) is the third stage. During these stages, the baby and then the afterbirth pass through your birth canal and come out.

A cesarean delivery (c-section) is when doctors deliver your baby through a cut made in your belly.

Most of the time, delivery goes well, but doctors will watch you for possible complications.

Where will I deliver my baby?

Typically, you'll be in a hospital or birthing center.

In some hospitals, you'll be in one room for labor and in a different room for delivery.

In other facilities, you'll stay in the same room for both labor and delivery.

What happens when I give birth?

When you're about to give birth, doctors and nurses may help you move into a partial sitting position, between lying down and sitting up. This position:

  • Helps the baby move slowly down toward your vagina

  • Is less likely to hurt your back or pelvis

Some women prefer to give birth lying down or in other positions.

During delivery, your doctor or midwife will:

  • Check your vagina to find your baby’s head

  • Ask you to bear down and push with each contraction

  • Support your baby’s head as it comes out of your vagina, to try to prevent tearing

  • Turn your baby’s body sideways so that the shoulders come out one at a time

  • Catch the baby

After your baby is born, your doctor or midwife will:

  • Suction fluid and mucus out of your baby’s nose and mouth

  • Put a clamp on the umbilical cord and cut it—this doesn't hurt you or your baby

  • Dry off your baby and wrap him or her in a blanket

  • Place your baby in a bassinet or in your arms

What can help with delivery?

Sometimes a doctor speeds up a delivery because the baby or mother needs medical help. Doctors can deliver a baby faster using:

  • Vacuum extraction (a suction cup device that helps a doctor pull your baby out)

  • Forceps (a grasping device that helps a doctor pull your baby out)

  • Episiotomy (a small cut to your vaginal tissue to widen the birth canal which helps your baby come out)

How is the placenta delivered?

Your placenta is the afterbirth. It's a plate-sized piece of tissue attached to your uterus that provides oxygen and nutrients to your baby. It's attached to your baby with the umbilical cord.

  • Usually, the placenta comes out on its own within 30 minutes after your baby is born

  • The doctor or midwife may massage your belly and give you medicine called oxytocin to help your uterus contract and push out the placenta

If the placenta doesn't come out or only part of it comes out, the doctor may need to reach into your uterus to remove the placenta.

What happens after delivery?

After the placenta is out, your doctor or midwife may help your uterus contract using:

  • Belly massages

  • Medicine called oxytocin

Your doctor will also stitch up any tears or cuts in your cervix and vagina.

Then you and your baby will spend several hours bonding in a recovery room. In some hospitals, your baby will stay in your room with you for your whole stay. In other hospitals, your baby will also spend time in a nursery.

Most problems happen within 24 hours after your delivery. Nurses and doctors will check on you and your baby regularly during that time.

NOTE: This is the Consumer Version. DOCTORS: Click here for the Professional Version
Click here for the Professional Version
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