What to Expect in Labor
Now that you’re pregnant, you are probably starting to think about what is going to be happening at the end of this pregnancy. That baby growing inside of you is going to have to come out one way or another. If this is your first delivery it can feel very overwhelming by not knowing what to expect.
Most Moms will enter the labor and delivery unit because they are having contractions, or their water has broken. So what do these two things feel like? Well, contractions can feel like anything from menstrual cramps, to a tightening of the abdominal wall, to pain in your pelvis. When your water breaks (amniotic fluid) it can happen as a large gush, or a slow trickle that you can’t stop. The fluid should be clear and has little to no odor. If you are concerned that your water has broken, or you feel like your contractions are five minutes apart you should call your doctor and head to the hospital. If your contractions go away after walking, taking a shower, resting, or drinking a large glass of water you are not in labor. If you are not scheduled for a cesarean section EAT something substantial before going to the hospital. If you are in labor you will not be able to eat until after delivery! You can have fluids, but no food, so plan accordingly, if you can. I always feel bad for Moms that haven’t eaten in forever because they came in the middle of the night, and are still in labor the next night.
When you enter the labor and delivery unit you will be greeted with a clerk asking for your license and insurance card. They will get you registered into their system while a nurse gets you into a triage room. This is a room they use to evaluate you to make sure you are in labor before admitting you to a labor bed. You will give a urine sample, get dressed into a gown, and then head to the bed where you will be strapped up to a fetal monitoring device. This will show baby’s heart rate, along with any contractions you may be having. There are also tests that can be performed to verify if your water has broken or not.
A nurse or provider will come in and ask you a lot of questions. They will also check your cervix to see if you are dilated. This can be uncomfortable if you haven’t experienced it already at your doctor’s appointments. You may feel painful contractions as your labor progresses, so be sure to read up on how you plan to deal with this pain. You may not be able to get an epidural right away, even if that is your plan.
If you are, in fact, in labor you will be transferred to a labor room where you will spend most of your stay. At this time you will have an IV started, and labs drawn. Often times, labs can be drawn with the IV, but all facilities are different. The lab draws are not nearly as painful as getting an IV. Even if you don’t plan on having an epidural you will still need an IV for hydration, and postpartum Pitocin to help your uterus contract after delivery to control bleeding. Labor is a messy process, so try not to wear anything you wouldn’t want blood and fluids getting on.
As your labor progresses you will feel a LOT of pain without an epidural. I don’t say this to scare you, but rather to prepare you. It is very important to educate yourself on what you want your labor to look like, and how you plan to deal with labor pains. Your nurse will be able to help you find more comfortable positions that can help. Some facilities have tubs available that can lessen pain, but it is up to your provider if they will allow this. Epidurals don’t always work, and it is an elective procedure, so you may need to wait if there are other things going on in the hospital where the anesthesiologist or CRNA cannot get to you right away. It is better to prepare for the worst, and hope for the best. We, as women, are amazing beings, and you will be surprised by what your body can do for you.
Your labor nurse will support you through the labor process. Some hospitals have midwives that round on patients, but the nurse is the primary caretaker that keeps the physician updated. It is not uncommon for your physician to be present only when you are ready to deliver. Labor is very unpredictable, and physicians often cannot hang out and wait when they have other patients and hospitals to visit. This can seem scary, BUT your nurse keeps a very close eye on you to make sure you have the safest delivery possible. Most facilities have 12 hour nurse shifts, so you will likely have two nurses per day. This allows for better care for you so there aren’t multiple people caring for you, and the nurse can get to know you. Your nurse or provider will perform a cervical check as your contractions get stronger, if there is any change in the baby’s heart rate, or when you start to feel pressure in your bottom like you need to push-this is a good sign that you are nearing the end of labor.
When it is time for delivery your nurse will collect all the items needed for delivery. This can seem daunting as she starts bringing equipment into the room, but know that this is very common, and is just what the doctor needs for your safe delivery. Another nurse will join you to take care of the baby once he or she is born. It is important that each of you have your own nurse assessing you for a safe transition. When you begin to push, listen to your provider and your nurse. They will guide you and support you on what to do. Having effective pushes are what will get that baby out the fastest. It is important to remember to push through the pain. No matter what, the better and stronger you push, the faster it will be over, and you will have a beautiful being in your arms. Once your baby is out he or she will be placed on your chest and dried off. You will be in awe of what you just went through. Congratulations!! It is such an exciting time for you and your new family, and I promise, we all enjoy it each and every time too!
Be sure to check out my other articles, including what I have to say about labor pain!
Welcome! I’m Brittany. I’m a mom of two toddlers living in Northwest Ohio with my husband, Chris, and our two cats, Simon and Oliver. I’m a labor and delivery nurse, and an Internationally Board Certified Lactation Consultant. I love finding new ways that make parenting easier, while providing a fun learning atmosphere for my girls at the same time. In my blog you will find tips and tricks for dealing with pregnancy, labor, and parenthood. My favorite part about being a nurse (besides getting to welcome little miracles into the world, obviously) is being able to educate new Moms (and Dads) on how to care for their little ones at the very start. Parenthood is such a complex and exhausting journey that we need to have support from others who make us feel like we’re not alone. You are not alone here!