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delivery of the fetus by the viviparous mammal. Birth is also known as parturition. Human birth normally occurs about 280 days after onset of the last menstrual period before conception.

The Stages of Labor

Onset of labor, the first stage, is heralded by contractions of the uterus felt as cramplike pains in the abdomen or lower back that recur at intervals of 10 to 30 minutes and last about 40 seconds; they increase in frequency until they occur at about 2-minute intervals. With each contraction the cervix, or neck of the uterus, dilates until it becomes wide enough, about 4 in. (10 cm), to permit emergence of the baby.

In the second stage of labor the baby passes through the birth canal, most commonly head first, and is born. The effectiveness of uterine contractions in this stage is enhanced by the bearing-down abdominal contractions of the mother.

The third stage of labor, which occurs about 15 to 30 minutes after the child is born, is characterized by the separation of the placenta from the uterine wall and its expulsion. The total time of labor averages 13 to 14 hours in women pregnant for the first time and 8 to 9 hours in women who have previously borne children.

Methods of Analgesia

The pain of childbirth can be relieved with a variety of analgesic and sedative drugs, including morphine, barbiturates, and chloroform. However, many drugs that relieve pain also slow the uterine contractions or dangerously depress the baby's respiratory system. Spinal anesthetics, injected directly into the spinal cord, while not dangerous to the child, are difficult to administer accurately and are therefore potentially dangerous to the mother. Hypnosis has also been used experimentally.

Natural Childbirth

In recent years so-called natural childbirth has come into wide use; the advantages are that the child is born undrugged and the mother can be conscious at the moment of birth. Natural childbirth emphasizes the ability of many women to give birth with a minimal amount of pain-killing drugs or none at all. The Dick-Read method, formulated by the British obstetrician of that name, emphasizes maternal understanding of the birth process as an aid to relaxation, and exercises to strengthen muscles and encourage proper breathing. The Lamaze method, or psychoprophylaxis, is of Soviet Russian origin; it uses breathing exercises as a conditioned response to uterine contractions. The Leboyer method, developed by a French obstetrician, is an approach that seeks to minimize any trauma for the newborn through the use of a quiet room with dimmed light, immediate contact with the mother, and the like, and can be combined with other methods that focus on the mother and labor.

Complications of Childbirth

Birth often cannot proceed normally because of a defect of the cervix or weak uterine contractions; breech births, in which the feet or buttocks emerge first, and transverse births, in which the child is positioned across the uterus, usually require obstetrical intervention, such as forceps delivery, manually turning the baby, or performing a cesarean sectioncesarean section
, delivery of an infant by surgical removal from the uterus through an abdominal incision. The operation is of ancient origin: indeed, the name derives from the legend that Julius Caesar was born in this fashion. Until advancements in the late 19th cent.
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. About 10% of pregnancies terminate in deliveries that are too early, producing (after at least 200 days of gestation) premature infants requiring special care. Birth of a fetus prior to about 200 days of gestation is termed a miscarriage; birth within the first three months, an abortion. Stillbirth is the delivery of a dead child.

Complications of childbirth affecting the newborn include infant blindness attributable to gonorrhea infection, now largely eliminated by routine administration of silver nitrate to the eyes; retrolental fibroplasia, a type of blindness common for some years in premature infants that was found to result from administration of high concentrations of oxygen and is now largely avoided; and erythroblastosis fetaliserythroblastosis fetalis
, hemolytic disease of a newborn infant caused by blood group incompatibility between mother and child. Although the Rh factor is responsible for the most severe cases of erythroblastosis fetalis, the disease may be produced by any of the other blood
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, or Rh disease, which can often be prevented. Puerperal fever, an infection of the mother's genital tract once common following labor and delivery, has now also been largely eliminated by preventive hygiene, especially in labor, and by antibiotic therapy.

See pregnancypregnancy,
period of time between fertilization of the ovum (conception) and birth, during which mammals carry their developing young in the uterus (see embryo). The average duration of pregnancy in humans is about 280 days, equal to 9 calendar months.
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; obstetricsobstetrics
, branch of medicine concerned with the treatment of women during pregnancy, labor, childbirth (see birth), and the time after childbirth. Obstetricians work to ensure that pregnancy culminates in the delivery of a healthy baby, without impairing the health of the
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See D. Caton, What a Blessing She Had Chloroform (1999).

What does it mean when you dream about birth?

Dreams of oneself or others giving birth most obviously relate to actual physical birth. Pregnant women and the husbands of pregnant women often dream about strange or difficult births (e.g., giving birth to puppies). This merely reflects anxiety about the birth process and should not be taken as indicating a difficult birth or a deformed child. Birth can also symbolize the beginning of a new idea or project. It also often represents the beginning of a new stage of life, in which one feels “reborn” in some sense.


The emergence of a new individual from the body of its parent.


Women who are pregnant and men who are going to be fathers commonly have dreams about giving birth. It is not an omen of anything to come, but simply the mind trying to cope with a significant anxiety-provoking event. If you or your mate is not pregnant, this dream could symbolize new beginnings (i. e., giving birth to new ideas, new ways of living, or a new stage in life). Superstition-based dream interpretations say that giving birth in a dream is a sign of good luck, while multiple births are omens of forthcoming material wealth.
References in periodicals archive ?
First of all, this analysis supports the argument that, if mothers with shorter previous birth intervals have used prenatal care, their babies are significantly more likely to have better survival chances during the neonatal period than those mothers with the same short birth interval who did not receive prenatal care for the index child.
The median birth interval for females who had 'ever worked' were relatively shorter as compared to those who 'never worked'.
The question of period of childbirth is another interesting finding but hopefully that will be substantiated and strengthened in the supply-side model, which I referred to earlier, with birth intervals.
In fact, the purpose of acquiring a co-wife was often said to be one of lengthening birth intervals or, in some cases, of stopping child bearing altogether.
The first birth interval was significantly longer for the Humli women at 3.
As well as the physical and mental stress involved, women might not be recovering from the nutrition depletion caused by having children when there are short birth intervals.
The multivariate models omitted two variables: vaccination (because data were missing for 61% of children) and birth interval (because inclusion of this variable would have resulted in multicollinearity with the birth-order variable, as 34% of children were first-born and thus had no preceding birth interval).
We also adjust for birth order and birth interval, with the assumption that children of higher birth order and those who were born within a short period of time following the preceding birth may be smaller than their counterparts (Seidman et al.
HIV-positive and HIV-negative women differed with respect to age, parity, length of last birth interval, child survival, childbearing intentions and intention to breastfeed, with HIV-positive women both desiring and having fewer children.
Four percent had given birth after age 39, and 36% had had a birth interval of less than two years.
There was no significant difference in the average birth interval between contraceptive users and non-users (p = 0.