FAQ » Labour & Delivery
Ques. How will I know when I'm in labour?
Ans. It is often difficult to know when you are in true labor. Your body will give you signals, but there is no guarantee that you will experience them. Here are some signs to watch for:
- Mucous plug
- Effacement (thining of the cervix) and dilation (opening of the cervix): These signs will need to be measured by your doctor and will give a more accurate indication of what stage of labor you are in.
Do not wait for your water to break before concerning your doctor – for most women this does not happen until the labor has progressed.
If you notice any bright red discharge concern your doctor immediately! Pinkish spotting (bloody show) is normal after 37 weeks, particularly after you have had a vaginal exam, have had sex, or are in early labor. Concern your doctor if you experience any bleeding that occurs before 37 weeks. This is not normal.
Ques. What should I expect when I get to the hospital?
Ans. When you arrive in the hospital, you will need to change into a hospital gown and give a urine sample. The nurse will help you into bed, ask questions about your health history, and take your temperature, pulse, and blood pressure. A fetal monitor may be used to listen to your baby’s heart rate and to record any contractions, which you may be having. You can see the tracing or recording of your baby’s heartbeat. You may have a sterile exam with a speculum placed into the vagina to see if your water has broken. An exam can tell if your cervix (the opening to your uterus where the baby will come out) is dilating (opening).
Ques. What will happen during labour?
Ans. During labour, your uterus (which is made up of muscles) will tighten and relax. This causes your cervix to open. Once the cervix is fully open (dilate), you will start to push the baby down through the birth canal.
Your amniotic sac (bag of water) may break on its own before or during labor. Sometimes, your doctor may decide to break the bag of water if it has not broken on its own. This is not any more uncomfortable than a vaginal exam. The amniotic fluid may feel warm as it leaks out.
First Stage: During the first stage of labor uterine contractions begin. They will be relatively mild at first and they will increase in intensity and duration as labor progresses. Usually contractions will become more frequent after your water breaks. Throughout this stage your cervix thins (effaces) and opens (dilation) and by the time you are ready to deliver your baby your cervix will be dilated to 10 centimeters. The typical duration of this stage is 13 hours – if it's your first child.
Second Stage: During the second stage of labor your cervix will open sufficiently and your baby begins to move down the birth canal. At this time you will push the baby through the birth canal and you’ll finally be able to meet your new baby. The typical duration of this stage is 90 minutes.
Third Stage:In the third stage you will deliver the placenta or afterbirth. This usually happens within 30 minutes after the birth.
Ques. How long will my labour last?
Ans. If it's your first child, labor will typically last between 12 and 24 hours, with an average of 14 hours. However, if you've given birth before, labor usually averages between 6 and 8 hours.
Ques. Is there anything I can do to lessen the pain of the contractions?
- Change positions often
- Use relaxation techniques
- Have your support person massage your feet.
- Go to the bathroom every hour or so. A full bladder hurts and keeps the baby from moving into the birth canal
- Turn the lights down and listen to quiet music
- Have your support person give you a back rub
- Use cool, moist washcloth on your face or forehead
- Take a warm shower to help you relax
Ques. What if something doesn't go as planned?
Ans. Be assured, many women give birth to healthy babies with no complications at all. If complications do occur, they are many times related to timing and your doctor or other health care provider knows exactly how to handle them. Serious problems are relatively rare and often can be anticipated.
- Premature rupture of the membranes (water breaking)
- Preterm labor (labor that begins before the 37th week of pregnancy)
- Postterm pregnancy (pregnancy that continues beyond 42 weeks)
- Excessive vaginal bleeding
- An abnormal heart rate in the fetus
- Labor that progresses too slowly
- Abnormal position of the fetus including breech presentation
If the conditions indicate that you are not fit to deliver normally, your doctor may decide to take you for caesarian operation.