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Labor and Delivery

Knowing what to expect during labor can be helpful. This section will help explain the different aspects of labor and delivery you may experience, including stages of labor in vaginal birth, methods used to assist vaginal labor, cesarean section, as well as common issues that can arise during labor and delivery.

Am I in labor?

Most first time mothers are unsure whether or not they are in real labor. In true labor, contractions usually start in the lower back and move to the front along the pubic line. Contractions get stronger, regular and come closer together. Walking or changing your position increases them. In false labor, contractions tend to be felt more at the top of the uterus. They do not come with regularity. Walking and changing your position will relieve these contractions.

Prior to the onset of labor you may have a jelly-like discharge which may be pink or blood-tinged. This is the mucus plug, a protective covering of the cervix that helps shield the pregnant uterus from infection.

You also may experience a sudden energy surge called nesting. This newfound energy is thought to help support you through labor and delivery. Any feelings like these that make you think you are in labor should be communicated to your provider. See when to call your health care provider for more information.

When to call the doctor

Your clinician will provide specific advice on when you should call, so be sure to jot down this information. If you have any risk factors, your clinician may have very specific instructions regarding when to call the office and go to the birthing center.

In an otherwise healthy pregnancy, call your clinician:
  • when your water breaks (sometimes this is more a trickle than a gush of clear fluid) OR
  • when contractions are regular and lasting 30 to 60 seconds OR
  • if you have any bright red bleeding, with or without pain.
Going to the hospital

You want to be as prepared as you can be when the moment of labor is at hand. You should have a bag of labor necessities packed and ready to go by week 36, which is the start of month 9.

Here is a list of labor necessities that may be helpful. Pack by week 36, the ones you think might make you feel most comfortable during labor.

For labor:
  • Insurance cards and pre-registration forms (present when you first arrive at the hospital)
  • Massage lotions/moisturizers/aroma oils
  • Petroleum jelly or lip balm
  • Comfortable, loose fitting top
  • Slippers or socks, especially ones with “grippers” on the sole
  • Hard candy, gum, mints
  • Mouthwash
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Hairbrush
  • Solution for contact lenses and storage container
  • Eyeglasses and case
  • Extra pillows
  • Cool packs or warm packs
  • Favorite music – CD/tape/radio
  • Meditation objects or lucky charms
  • Camera (check the battery!)
  • Film
  • Camcorder or video equipment
  • Important phone numbers
  • Cord blood collection kit if you plan to collect the baby’s stem cells
For the rest of your hospital stay:
  • Bedclothes and robe
  • Complete change of clothes – loose and comfortable
  • Nursing bra/nursing pads
  • Shoes
  • Shampoo/conditioner/mousse/ hair spray
  • Hair dryer
  • Soap and washcloth
  • Make-up
  • Deodorant
For baby:

Some hospitals may provide some of these things… but it’s a good idea to come prepared. Your spouse, a family member or friend can also bring these items into the hospital after the birth.

  • Newborn diapers
  • Baby wipes
  • Alcohol prep pads
  • T-shirt
  • Socks/booties
  • Outfit
  • Outer clothes or pram suit (depending on the climate)
  • Hat
  • A cloth spit-up diaper
  • Receiving blanket
  • Pacifier
  • Infant car seat (this one is required to bring your baby home!)


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