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Labor And Delivery

What is labor and delivery? Labor is a group of steps your uterus (womb) goes through to deliver (push out) your baby. It is not known for sure what causes labor to begin. Hormones made by you and your baby and changes in your uterus may help to start labor. There is no way to know when labor will start and when your baby will be born. But there are signs you can look for and things to do to be ready.

What does my due date mean? Your caregiver has given you a due date, which is a rough idea when your baby will be born. This date is only a guide and does not mean that your baby will be born on this day. Most women do not have their baby on the due date. You should not be worried if you do not deliver your baby on your due date. Labor may start 2 weeks before or after your due date and still be normal.

When should I call my caregiver? As you get ready for your baby's birth, talk to your caregiver about the following:

  • What is your caregiver's phone number?
  • When should you call your caregiver?
  • Does your caregiver want you to go to the hospital right away? Or does your caregiver want you to call him/her first?
  • How far apart should your contractions (kun-trak-shuns) be before you go to the hospital?
  • Should you go to the hospital if your bag of waters breaks but you are not having contractions?
  • Should you call the caregiver if you are bleeding?
  • Ask your caregiver if there are other reasons why you should call him/her?
  • Ask your caregiver any questions you may have to prepare for your labor and delivery.

Getting to the hospital: You may want to take a tour of the hospital before you go into labor. This will answer many of your questions and help you know where to go when you go into labor. Think about the following as you get ready for your labor and delivery:

  • How far do you live from the hospital and how long will it take you to get there? The time of the day and weather may change how long it takes to get to the hospital.
  • How will you get to the hospital? Have you made plans to have someone take you?
  • Do you have other children at home who will need to be watched when you go to the hospital?
  • Do you have a safe car seat for your baby when you bring him home from the hospital?

How do I know I am in labor?

  • Your uterus is a muscle that tightens and relaxes. The tightening and loosening that you feel in your abdomen (belly) is your uterus contracting. This is called a contraction. A contraction helps to push your baby through the vagina. Timing your contractions is one way to tell if you are in labor. Time how long each contraction lasts and how much time is between each contraction. Write this information down for 1 hour. Call your caregiver if your contractions are at the point that you and your caregiver have talked about.
  • If you are in true labor, each contraction will last about 30 to 60 seconds. The contractions will come and go at regular times. Your contractions will get stronger and closer together as you labor. You will also have more pain during contractions as they get closer together. The contractions will not go away when you move around or lie down.
  • Sometimes it is hard to time contractions correctly because your labor pains are not hard or strong. You may want to call your caregiver if you think you are going into labor.
  • You may have had false labor pains during your pregnancy. Sometimes it is hard to know if you are having false labor pains or true labor pains. You may need a vaginal exam ("internal exam") to know if you are really in labor. Caregivers will be able to tell if the changes in your cervix are signs of labor.

What happens during labor? The following are the 3 stages (parts) of labor:

  • Stage 1: The cervix is the bottom part of the uterus (womb). During the first part of labor as your uterus contracts, the cervix thins out. The cervix then opens to let your baby pass through the cervix into the vagina.
  • Stage 2: This is the stage that ends with the birth of your baby. During this stage, the uterus continues to contract to push your baby through the birth canal.
  • Stage 3: This is the last stage of labor. It is when the placenta comes out of the uterus through the vagina. The placenta is also called the "afterbirth." It is the tissue (skin) that joins you to your baby. Its job is to bring food to your baby and take away waste.

Care: You will be put in the hospital if your contractions are strong and getting closer together. Other reasons for going into the hospital are if your bag of waters has broken or if you are bleeding.

Coping: Labor and delivery can be an exciting but scary time. These feelings can be lessened by knowing what to look for and what to expect. You and a support person may want to take childbirth classes to prepare for your labor and delivery. You will be able to go through labor and delivery with greater comfort and control by being prepared.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. To help with this plan, you must learn about your illness, injury, surgery, or procedure. You can then discuss your treatment options with your caregiver. You can work with him/her to decide what care will be used to treat you. You always have the right to refuse treatment.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

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