Nobody knows exactly what it feels like for a baby to be born, but we know it's a tough journey. We have all been through it, but because of our limited memory, we can only imagine what it is like to squeeze through the narrow birth canal and come out into the vast and comparatively cold world.
A narrow birth canal
So what happens during labour? We know that the baby undergoes considerable stress during labour and birth. This is primarily due to the physical fact of the body having to adapt and squeeze through the birth canal. You can see this clearly if you look at a baby's head after delivery. Its head shape is often altered after passing through the narrow canal. But the baby's head is soft and will regain its natural shape within a few days after being born.
Allow the delivery the time it needs
Because the bones of a baby's cranium haven't yet knitted together, its head does not risk being damaged on the way out. However, it is important that the pressure does not change too quickly. For this reason, the delivery must be allowed the time it needs, for the sake of both the baby and the mother.
Labour prepares the baby for breathing
The passage through the birth canal also compresses the baby's ribcage, forcing the liquid out of its lungs. This makes it easier to breathe for the first time after coming out.
The baby can survive for a while on a reduced supply of oxygen and nutrients
The blood flow to the placenta decreases during labour, so the baby temporarily gets less oxygen and nutrients. Babies are designed to survive this stress. However, if labour takes too long, the baby's resources can become depleted, which can cause its heart rate to change.
This is why the baby is monitored so closely during the entire labour and delivery process. If the midwife suspects that the child is distressed, the doctor is summoned and a plan is made to deliver the baby more quickly that would have happened naturally. This may be done with a ventouse, by giving the mother medication to increase the contractions or by performing a C-section.