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The mother's body is prepared for birth by hormones produced by the pituitary gland , the ovary and the placenta. The normal process of childbirth takes several hours and has three stages. The first stage starts with a series of involuntary contractions of the muscular walls of the uterus and gradual dilation of the cervix. At some time, the amniotic sac bursts and the amniotic fluid escapes also known as rupture of membranes or breaking the water.
Enormous changes take place in the newborn's circulation to enable breathing in air. In the uterus, the unborn baby is dependent on circulation of blood through the placenta for sustenance including gaseous exchange and the unborn baby's blood bypasses the lungs by flowing through the foramen ovale , which is a hole in the septum dividing the right atrium and left atrium. After birth the umbilical cord is clamped and cut, the baby starts to breathe air, and blood from the right ventricle starts to flow to the lungs for gaseous exchange and oxygenated blood returns to the left atrium , which is pumped into the left ventricle , and then pumped into the main arterial system.
As result of these changes, the blood pressure in the left atrium exceeds the pressure in the right atrium, and this pressure difference forces the foramen ovale to close separating the left and right sides of the heart. The umbilical vein , umbilical arteries , ductus venosus and ductus arteriosus are not needed for life in air and in time these vessels become ligaments embryonic remnants. Birthing in cattle is typical of a larger mammal.
A cow goes through three stages of labor during normal delivery of a calf. During stage one, the animal seeks a quiet place away from the rest of the herd. Hormone changes cause soft tissues of the birth canal to relax as the mother's body prepares for birth. The contractions of the uterus are not obvious externally, but the cow may be restless. She may appear agitated, alternating between standing and lying down, with her tail slightly raised and her back arched.
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The fetus is pushed toward the birth canal by each contraction and the cow's cervix gradually begins to dilate. Stage one may last several hours, and ends when the cervix is fully dilated. Stage two can be seen to be underway when there is external protrusion of the amniotic sac through the vulva, closely followed by the appearance of the calf's front hooves and head in a front presentation or occasionally the calf's tail and rear end in a posterior presentation.
The complete delivery of the calf or calves in a multiple birth signifies the end of stage two.
12 Women Share What It's Like To Have A Natural Birth
The cow scrambles to her feet if lying down at this stage , turns round and starts vigorously licking the calf. The calf takes its first few breaths and within minutes is struggling to rise to its feet. The third and final stage of labor is the delivery of the placenta , which is usually expelled within a few hours and is often eaten by the normally herbivorous cow. Birth is termed whelping in dogs. Labour in the bitch can be divided into 3 stages. The first stage is when the cervix dilates, this causes discomfort and restlessness in the bitch. This may last up to 12hrs. After further contractions, the sac is expelled and the bitch breaks the membranes releasing clear fluid and exposing the puppy.
The mother chews at the umbilical cord and licks the puppy vigorously, which stimulates it to breathe. If the puppy has not taken its first breath within about six minutes, it is likely to die. Further puppies follow in a similar way one by one usually with less straining than the first usually at min intervals. If a pup has not been passed in 2 hrs a veterinarian should be contacted.
This often occurs in conjunction with stage two with the passing of each offspring. An infant marsupial is born in a very immature state. The first sign that a birth is imminent is the mother cleaning out her pouch. When it is born, the infant is pink, blind, furless and a few centimetres long. It has nostrils in order to breathe and forelegs to cling onto its mother's hairs but its hind legs are undeveloped.
It crawls through its mother's fur and makes its way into the pouch. Here it fixes onto a teat which swells inside its mouth. It stays attached to the teat for several months until it is sufficiently developed to emerge. Many reptiles and the vast majority of invertebrates, most fish, amphibians and all birds are oviparous , that is, they lay eggs with little or no embryonic development taking place within the mother.
In aquatic organisms, fertilization is nearly always external with sperm and eggs being liberated into the water an exception is sharks and rays, which have internal fertilization . Millions of eggs may be produced with no further parental involvement, in the expectation that a small number may survive to become mature individuals.
Terrestrial invertebrates may also produce large numbers of eggs, a few of which may avoid predation and carry on the species. Some fish, reptiles and amphibians have adopted a different strategy and invest their effort in producing a small number of young at a more advanced stage which are more likely to survive to adulthood. Birds care for their young in the nest and provide for their needs after hatching and it is perhaps unsurprising that internal development does not occur in birds, given their need to fly. Ovoviviparity is a mode of reproduction in which embryos develop inside eggs that remain in the mother's body until they are ready to hatch.
Ovoviviparous animals are similar to viviparous species in that there is internal fertilization and the young are born in an advanced state, but differ in that there is no placental connection and the unborn young are nourished by egg yolk. The mother's body provides gas exchange respiration , but that is largely necessary for oviparous animals as well.
The requiem sharks maintain a placental link to the developing young, this practice is known as viviparity. This is more analogous to mammalian gestation than to that of other fishes. In all these cases, the young are born alive and fully functional. When the young have finished their yolk sacs they feed on nutrients secreted by cells lining the oviduct and even the cells themselves which they eat with specialist scraping teeth.
A more developed form of viviparity called placental viviparity is adopted by some species of scorpions  and cockroaches,  certain genera of sharks , snakes and velvet worms. In these, the developing embryo is nourished by some form of placental structure. The earliest known placenta was found recently in a group of extinct fishes called placoderms , which are ancestral to mammals.
A fossil from Australia's Gogo Formation , laid down in the Devonian period, million years ago, was found with an embryo inside it connected by an umbilical cord to a yolk sac. The find confirmed the hypothesis that a sub-group of placoderms, called ptyctodontids , fertilized their eggs internally. Some fishes that fertilize their eggs internally also give birth to live young, as seen here. This discovery moved our knowledge of live birth back million years. Among lizards, the viviparous lizard Zootoca vivipara , slow worms and many species of skink are viviparous, giving birth to live young.
Women who want to avoid hormonal birth control can consider condoms, diaphragms, the non-hormonal intrauterine devices IUD , or fertility monitoring methods.
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Hormonal birth controls may help regulate postpartum periods. These methods include pills containing estrogen and progestins, or only progestin, as well as the hormonal IUDs, injections, or implants. Some birth control options can stop a woman's period or cause less frequent periods. A doctor may recommend these options for women who experience very heavy or painful periods.
Women who are breastfeeding may worry about the effects of birth control on the baby or their ability to produce breast milk. A study compared two different types of birth control — combined pills and progestin-only pills — and did not find significant differences in breastfeeding patterns or milk production.
While hormonal birth control is safe to use while breastfeeding, it is still essential for a woman to talk to a doctor about any new medication she may be about to begin. After a woman has given birth, the doctor or midwife should offer advice about warning signs of a problem. Normal bleeding patterns vary, depending on the birthing method, a woman's medical history, and other individual factors.
A person should also arrange to see their doctor for unusual bleeding, very painful periods, or for questions about irregular periods. The first postpartum period may be heavier and more painful than those before pregnancy, or it may be lighter and easier. Some women have their first postpartum period shortly after lochia, while others may wait many months, especially if they are breastfeeding. When changes in a woman's period are painful or otherwise troubling, it is best to speak to a doctor, who can help relieve the symptoms.
Article last reviewed by Tue 9 October All references are available in the References tab.
More on this topic for:
Borda, M. Postpartum fertility and contraception: An analysis of findings from 17 countries. Casey, F. Oral contraceptives.
- 12 Women Share What It's Like To Have A Natural Birth | SELF.
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Classifications for fertility awareness-based methods. Espey, E. Effect of progestin vs. Fletcher, S. Lochia patterns among normal women: A systematic review [Abstract]. How do your periods change after pregnancy?
Jackson, E. Return of ovulation and menses in postpartum nonlactating women: A systematic review [Abstract]. Moldenhauer, J. Postpartum care. Van Der Wijden, C. Lactational amenorrhoea method for family planning. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews , MLA Villines, Zawn. MediLexicon, Intl. APA Villines, Z. MNT is the registered trade mark of Healthline Media. Any medical information published on this website is not intended as a substitute for informed medical advice and you should not take any action before consulting with a healthcare professional. Privacy Terms Ad policy Careers.
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Table of contents What to expect What about lochia?
Periods while breastfeeding Birth control When to see a doctor Conclusion. Periods may change after childbirth, as the uterus takes time to return to its normal size. A woman may experience cramps when passing lochia after giving birth. Some birth control options may help regulate postpartum periods. Birth control while breastfeeding: What options are safe?