after her barely have time to register what is happening. This is termed "precipitate labour". In other cases, the process is slow or may appear to stall altogether.
It is impossible to predict with absolute certainty who will have a successful vaginal delivery. It is, however, possible to predict where difficulties are likely to be encountered. Having said that, it is most unusual for a woman in her first pregnancy with a baby in a normal position (head first) to be advised not to aim for a vaginal delivery. It is amazing how, in some cases where things look improbable, labour is smooth and vaginal delivery successful. Conversely, everybody in the business has encountered cases where labour stalls for no apparent cause and defies all efforts to correct it. That is nature for you. Modern labour management is so efficient that the element of unpredictability is not regarded as a significant challenge.
Labour is divided into three stages. The first stage ends when the cervix is fully dilated and pushing can commence. The second stage is where the pushing is done. It ends with delivery of the baby and here commences the third and final stage. The third stage, that most mothers are scarcely aware of nor interested in, ends with the delivery of the placenta (afterbirth). The form of labour management adopted can influence the length of each of these stages.
Oh, baby, oh!
"Isn't she wonderful?" So sang Stevie Wonder. It may be a he (or both) but the sentiment is the same. The end of an odyssey that is unique in its intensity and emotions. It is also the beginning of motherhood proper. The experiences of the immediate postnatal period will differ from person to person but will always be challenging. Each milestone is a wonder to behold and any mother will tell you - it is all worth it.
In this book, we have tackled subjects that will encompass and address the questions of 95 per cent of all pregnant women, probably more.
In this book, we have steered clear of judging anybody. The book is meant to inform, because we believe this is the only genuine form of empowerment.
In a book of this nature, it is impossible to escape using terms that are not in everyday use in the English language. We have, therefore, started by setting out to explain the many such unfamiliar terms and words that may be encountered in this book. If you, the reader, happen to know all or most of these, do not regard this to be an exercise in condescension. It is just part of the overall endeavour to get the message across.
AFP: This stands for alpha-fetal protein, which is one of the key chemicals used to diagnose various conditions that may affect the fetus in the uterus. The two conditions which this could detect are Down's syndrome and spins bifida. It can help detect several other less common conditions. It is produced by the fetus.
Amniocentesis: The act of drawing water from around the baby. In most cases, this is for diagnostic purposes, but it may, in some cases, be used to relieve tension when there is an excessive amount of water (amniotic fluid).
Amnion: This is the name of the membranes which form the bag that contains water and the fetus. Also called amniotic membranes
Amniotic fluid: The water around the baby. Also called liquor.