Labor and childbirth is an arduous task for mom, no doubt. But it also serves an important preparatory purpose for baby as well. Here are three ways that labor and delivery benefit baby.
In the womb, the fetus does not get oxygen from the lungs. He gets oxygen through the placenta from his mother. His lungs are the last of his organs to fully develop and they are filled with amniotic fluid. The fetus will “practice” breathing by taking the fluid in and out of his lungs and you may even feel his diaphragm gaining strength with hiccups in utero, but blood does not flow to the lungs until after birth. Once the Umbilical cord is clamped shut, the baby must take in oxygen for himself.
The process of labor actually dries up this fluid in their lungs and helps the baby prepare for this first breath of air. In the womb, blood bypasses the lungs due to pressure. During birth, the pressure in the baby's lungs drops and blood starts flowing through them normally.
Plus the compression of the contractions on the baby’s chest during labor and while he is being pushed through the birth canal, helps expel the fluid in the baby’s lungs.
Because a baby born via scheduled c-section never goes through labor, the baby's breathing may be faster and shallower than that of a baby who has been born after labor. This is called transient tachypnea of the newborn or “wet lung.” Even a little bit of labor prior to a C-section can benefit the baby. The breathing issues that do occur in a c-section baby usually resolve themselves in the first 48 hours of life once the lungs have dried out.
Catecholamines are stress hormones that everyone produces to stimulate the fight or flight response during a time of high-stress. These hormones help a woman cope with birth, but they also help the baby in key ways.
Again this helps prepare the baby for his first breath. The hormones produced helps the newborn keep their lungs expanded which helps them to clear the amniotic fluid and take his first breathe.
These hormones also increase the blood flow to the baby's brain, heart and kidneys. You will have a more alert baby upon delivery thanks to this hormonal assistance as well. An alert newborn is helpful for those early bonding and breastfeeding moments.
Yes, the baby receives certain antibodies from mother during the last few weeks in utero, but studies show the majority of this transfer occurs during labor. The lack of antibodies in C-section babies may account for their increased mortality rate.
The good news? Even if you opt for pain relief or an epidural, the baby will still benefit from labor. C-Sections save lives. In the end, we all strive for healthy and happy mothers and babies. But while you’re preparing for a vaginal birth, it’s good to keep in mind that your pain is baby’s gain.
Bonnie Jean Feldkamp is a writer and mother of two and expecting her third. If you liked this posting please follow her on Twitter @writerbonnie or like her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/WriterBonnie for more great info on Raising Kids.