As mentioned before, it takes some 280 days, or about 9 months, from the time the fertilized egg buries itself in the wall of the uterus until the new child is born. Most unborn children float upside down in the mother’s uterus; a few, however, stay in the upright position. If they stay upside down, they are born head first; if they stay upright, they are born bottom first.
Unborn children move their arms and legs quite a bit inside the mother’s uterus, and she often feels the kicking.
This is their way of exercising and getting to use their muscles. Sometimes the kicking is so strong that it may hurt the mother a bit, but it doesn’t hurt much or for very long. As a matter of fact, most mothers enjoy feeling their babies kick.
When the baby has fully developed and is ready to be born, the muscles of the uterus start to have contractions. These muscle contractions push the unborn child further down inside the mother so that, eventually, it will emerge from the vagina. At first, the contractions are not very strong and they come every fifteen or twenty minutes or so, and last only a few seconds. Then they increase in strength and take place regularly every few minutes and last for about a minute. Contractions usually keep up for several hours, getting stronger all the time. Then the fluid sac, in which the unborn child has been floating, bursts and the fluid runs out through the vagina.
The combination of the contractions of the muscles of the uterus and the pressure of the baby’s head-or if he is in an upright position, the pressure of his bottom-causes the cervix of the uterus to get bigger. Finally, the baby’s head-or bottom-is pushed out of the uterus into the vagina. When this happens, the birth of the child will take place within a few minutes. The doctor who is delivering the baby then gently lifts the head out of the vagina, and the rest of the baby soon comes out too. If the baby’s bottom happens to come first, the doctor reaches in and gently pulls out the feet. Then the rest of the body follows, the head coming out last.
Immediately after the baby is born, the doctor holds him upside down by the feet, so that any mucus that may be in the throat can run out. Most babies let out a little cry the second they are born, and then they begin to breathe for the first time all by themselves. Remember, inside the mother’s body, the baby is supplied with the oxygen he needs by the mother. If a baby doesn’t begin breathing right away by himself, the doctor will give him a swat on the behind, which soon starts him crying and breathing.
Remember that a baby is attached to its mother’s uterus by the umbilical cord. As soon as the baby is born, the
doctor puts a clamp on the cord near the child’s navel and he then cuts the umbilical cord straight across. The child no longer needs to be attached to the mother, of course, because he will now get oxygen through his own lungs and nourishment through nursing or taking a bottle.
The unborn child floats upside down, surrounded by fluid in the amniotic sac. Since the child doesn’t breathe none of this fluid gets into his lungs.
When the unborn child is in an upright position, it is called a breech. It is a little more difficult for a breech to be born, but the great majority come out without too much trouble.
A few minutes after the child is born, the placenta and umbilical cord are discharged by the mother and her uterus returns to normal.
Childbirth usually takes longer when the mother is having her first child. First children may take anywhere from half a day to a full day, or even more, from the time the uterus starts contracting until birth. Second, third, and other children may only take a few hours to be born.
Doctors have a special name for childbirth. They call it labor. That’s because it is real work for a mother to push out a baby, and most mothers are pretty tired by the time the child is finally born. However, they are not only tired but extremely happy, because the labor is worth it. Just ask your mother how happy she was when she finished giving birth to you!
Once the head has been delivered from the vagina, the shoulders and chest, and the rest of the body, will come out very easily. This is because the head is by far the largest part of a newborn baby’s body. In a breech delivery, the head comes out after all the rest of the body has been delivered, and this may take a few minutes longer.
Once in a while, for medical reasons, doctors may decide that a woman should have the baby by a special process called cesarean operation. This is done when the doctors think this way is safer both for the unborn child and for the mother. In a cesarean operation, they open the mother’s abdomen and uterus and lift out the baby. After the child is born, they sew up the uterus and the abdomen, and the mother is as good as new again.
Before the delivery of the baby, the mother may decide that she doesn’t want anesthesia during childbirth even though she knows it can be painful. Other mothers prefer not to feel pain during childbirth. They will therefore be put to sleep with general anesthesia, or will have injections to relieve the pain. Many times, the doctor will decide what is best to do. For example, if the unborn child is not very strong, the doctor may not want the mother to receive general anesthesia as this may affect the child. He may then recommend some other method of pain relief.
If a mother has twin or more babies in her uterus, they are always born one at a time. Usually, the second child follows a few minutes after the first. If there are triplets or quadruplets, they are born just a few minutes apart, too.