Preparing for labor and delivery

KEY POINTS

  • There are resources for learning about labor and delivery such as taking a childbirth class at your hospital. You can learn how to stay relaxed and how your provider can help reduce pain.

  • There are many signs of labor like contractions, your water breaking and bloody discharge.

  • There are different ways to have your baby like vaginal birth and Cesarean birth.

Your body has spent months helping your baby grow and keeping your baby safe.  As the day you’ll meet your baby approaches, there’s still a lot to think about, as you get ready for labor and birth.  

How can you learn about labor and birth?

Lots of pregnant women take childbirth classes to learn what happens during labor and birth. These classes can help you feel ready when labor starts so you’re not scared or surprised. You’ll learn how to breathe and relax to help with labor pain. And you’ll learn about different ways your health care provider can reduce your pain during labor.

You can probably take a childbirth class at your hospital. Some classes are free or low cost. Ask your provider if you need help finding a class. Think about taking a class in your sixth or seventh month of pregnancy. And take your partner or a friend with you who will be there to help during labor.

How do you know when you’re in labor?

  • You have strong and regular contractions. A contraction is when the muscles of your uterus tighten up like a fist and then relax. Contractions help push your baby out.
  • Your contractions come about 5 to 10 minutes apart.
  • Your contractions are so strong you can’t walk or talk during them.
  • Your water breaks. Your baby has been growing in amniotic fluid (bag of waters) in your uterus. When the bag of waters breaks, you may feel a big rush of water. Or you may feel just a trickle.
  • You have a bloody (brownish or reddish) mucus discharge. This is called bloody show.
  • You feel pain in your belly and lower back. This pain doesn't go away when you move or change positions.

What are the different ways you can have your baby?

  • Vaginal birth. This is the way most babies are born. During vaginal birth, your uterus contracts to help push the baby out through your vagina.
  • Cesarean birth. Also called a c-section. A c-section is surgery in which your baby is born through a cut that your doctor makes in your belly and uterus. If there are problems with your pregnancy or your baby’s health, a c-section may be safer than vaginal birth. You and your provider may plan for a c-section. Or you may need to have an emergency (unplanned) c-section if something goes wrong during pregnancy, labor or birth. If your pregnancy is healthy and you don’t have any medical reasons to have a c-section, it’s best to have your baby through vaginal birth.
  • Vaginal birth after cesarean (also called VBAC). If you've already had a cesarean birth, you may be able to have a vaginal birth in your next pregnancy. Talk to your provider to see if VBAC is safe for you.

Scheduling your baby’s birth means you and your health care provider decide when to have your baby instead of waiting for labor to begin on its own. Scheduling birth a little early for non-medical reasons can cause problems for you and your baby. If your pregnancy is healthy, it’s best to stay pregnant for at least 39 weeks. This gives important organs — like your baby’s brain, lungs, liver, eyes and ears — time to develop before birth.

If your pregnancy is healthy, wait for labor to begin on its own. If you choose to induce labor, talk to your provider about waiting until you’re full term at 39 weeks. Inducing labor or having a c-section before 39 weeks should only be for medical reasons. Inducing labor means your provider gives you medicine or breaks your water to make your labor begin.

 

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