236 chapter 11: Labor and birth
Labor and birth
Birth starts when the womb begins to contract and open. The time this takes can vary a
lot. When it is the mother’s first birth, this usually lasts 10 to 20 hours or more. In later
births, it often lasts from 7 to 10 hours. When the cervix is fully open, it usually takes less
than 2 hours to push the baby out. Birth ends when the after birth (placenta) comes out.
The length of time it takes for a woman with a disability—any disability—to
give birth is no different from the time it takes any other woman, usually from 3 to
24 hours. What may be different is how she can tell that labor has begun, and the
position she may need to be in during the delivery.
How to Tell You Are in Labor
Labor usually starts when you have been pregnant
more than 8 months. The baby will drop lower in
your belly, and you may find it easier to breathe.
During the last few weeks of pregnancy, most
women feel the womb getting tight a few times a
day, or maybe only a few times each week. These
tight feelings are practice contractions and are not
real labor. They may feel strange and last a few
minutes. But they do not usually hurt, and they do
not follow a regular pattern.
Even women who are paralyzed and have no
feeling in the belly can usually tell when the baby is
ready to come out. Although paralyzed women may
not have real pain, the belly will feel different enough
for them to know that something is changing.
About 2 weeks before birth, the
baby often drops lower in the
belly, especially first babies.
To midwives and other health workers caring for women who
have trouble learning or understanding:
Giving birth will be easier if you can help the mother-to-be prepare
someone—her husband, mother, sister, aunt, or a good friend—to be with her
during labor and birth. They can help with everything on page 235, as well as:
• Hold her hand, ask how she feels, and help her understand what is
• Help her understand what the midwife wants her to do.
• Help her practice different kinds of breathing during her pregnancy so
she can do this during her labor (see page 240).
A Health Handbook for Women with Disabilities 2007