Labour's best kept secrets: expect the unexpected when giving birth

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We spill the beans on the surprises you can expect during labour and childbirth

Shocked pregnant woman

© Getty - Handbag

You might consider yourself the most clued-up mum-to-be, you've been to the antenatal classes, poured over pregnancy and parenting books and bombarded your midwife with questions but when the time comes there still may be a few things about labour and birth that catch you unaware.

Here's a list of the more surprising aspects of childbirth and how you can best prepare yourself for the unexpected.

Your contractions might slow down
Contractions generally start off slowly and increase in frequency throughout labour. What you may not know is that once you are fully dilated, most women actually get a short break in their contractions and some find that the contractions are easier to handle after this stage. Use this brief period to rest, sip some water and focus on getting ready to push.

It's not over till it's over!
You've delivered your baby and you're probably on cloud nine thinking it's all over but then your midwife tells you to brace yourself for another's time to deliver your placenta. This can take you by surprise if no one's pre-warned you, but it doesn't hurt and usually your midwife will offer you an injection to help you deliver it reasonably quickly. You will probably be too busy cuddling your newborn to notice it much at all!

Your baby will be hungry straightaway
Being born is thirsty work and you'll find that your newborn will most likely happily latch on for his or her first feed very shortly after being born. This first milk you produce is called colostrum and it is packed with virus and bacteria fighting antibodies.

Your bump won't instantly disappear
Although it will shrink down fairly quickly, for the first week or so after giving birth you'll still have a bit of a bump. Most women still look about six months pregnant and this is because it take's a while for your uterus to shrink back. Breastfeeding can help the process along and after about four weeks you should be almost back to normal.

You could be back home sooner than you think
Your nan might have regaled you with tales from back in the day when it was normal to stay in hospital for up to four days after giving birth but this isn't usually the case anymore. Provided your labour was without complications (no c-section or stitches) you could be home within 24 hours.

In the weeks running up to your due date, it's important to prepare yourself and your birth partner physically and mentally for the labour. On the week of your due date make sure you're eating plenty of high energy foods such as cereals and pasta, stay hydrated and as mobile as you can. Moving around and keeping active can help bring on your labour.

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