Labor and Delivery

What to expect and how to prepare for childbirth

Labor and delivery are often written about, but they're rarely accurately described. Of course, aches, pain and fatigue are fairly universal, and there's a good chance that you'll need some sort of pain management or relaxation techniques to help you through the worst of it. On the other hand, it's impossible for you or your doctor to tell just how long your labor will last and just what your delivery will be like until you're in the middle of it. Prepare for the event with honest accounts of typical experiences and a good understanding of the various procedures that could be used.

Recognizing and Inducing Labor

True labor contractions can be difficult to recognize, and if this is your first pregnancy, you might wonder whether or not you'll know when to call your doctor or midwife. Luckily, there are some telltale signs to watch out for, and with a little patience and close observation you'll certainly be ready for your baby's arrival. The Braxton Hicks contractions (also known as false labor contractions) that you've been having for the past little while will intensify as you approach labor, and many women will begin to tremble, feel more pelvic pressure and experience diarrhea as labor draws near. The most prominent signs of labor will range from woman to woman, but losing your mucus plug and experiencing your bloody show are pretty good indicators that you're in the final stretch.

In some cases, labor simply doesn't come when it's expected or it may slow down when it's supposed to speed up. Inducing labor is not uncommon, especially when you've gone past your due date and your doctor or midwife thinks your baby would do better outside your body. Of course, complications such as preeclampsia would demand induction for an early delivery, and elective induction is also an option for some mothers-to-be. In most cases, a doctor will choose to induce labor only if the mother or the baby is at risk, and the method they choose may depend on how far you have progressed in your labor.

From C Section to Homebirth

Once labor is underway, you are mere hours away (if you're particularly lucky, just a few hours) from meeting your baby! How you spend your labor and when you see your caregiver will depend on what kind of delivery you have planned: a scheduled cesarean section will be quite formal and fairly quick with constant supervision, while a low-risk vaginal delivery in the hospital may have you waiting for a while before you can shuffle into your delivery room. More and more women are choosing a homebirth these days for the comfort of familiar surroundings and the close care of certified midwives, which will bring entirely different preparations.

Whichever way you expect to deliver, be sure to go over your hospital's policies beforehand so you know exactly what is allowed and what may be outside your control. Remember that plans can change at the last minute for any delivery, which makes flexibility a virtue. The health and safety of you and your baby is always the priority, so avoid a harsh surprise in the midst of labor by familiarizing yourself now with the different situations, procedures and interventions that may be needed.