Just For Parents

All About Labor

Giving birth is exciting—and overwhelming. Learn more about labor and delivery to help you make a birth plan that will help you have the experience you want, whether that’s aromatherapy and gentle music or sitting on a birthing ball with your support person rubbing your back.

Many moms, whether they are having their first baby or their fifth baby, have these common questions about their birth experience.

It can be hard to know what is true labor and what is false labor. You’ll know you are in labor if:

  • You have intense, regular contractions.
  • You have pain in your lower back or belly that might not go away and might get worse when you have a contraction.
  • You have bloody or mucusy discharge (called a “bloody show.”)
  • Your water breaks.

You might have experienced Braxton-Hicks contractions during your pregnancy, but labor contractions feel different. During a contraction:

  • Your belly feels tight, like a drum, then loosens after 30 seconds to a minute.
  • You have pain in your back, belly and/or hips and legs.
  • You are in too much pain to walk or speak.

As you get closer to your baby’s arrival, contractions will get closer together, become more intense and last longer. You can use a contraction timer app to time your contractions. If your contractions stop or become less frequent, you might not be in labor yet.

You might feel more comfortable staying at home during early labor. If your contractions aren’t too intense, you can take a shower, go for a walk or eat a snack.

But there are definite signs that you should make your way to the hospital for baby’s arrival. These include:

  • Your water breaks.
  • You have bloody discharge.
  • You feel the urge to push.

You should also come to Bellevue if your contractions follow the 4-1-1 rule. This means your contractions are less than 4 minutes apart, lasting for 1 minute and have been that way for 1 hour.

Always call your doctor before leaving for the hospital to let them know what is happening. They can advise you as to what to do.

It’s no secret that contractions are painful. But at Bellevue Woman’s Center, you have many options to help manage the pain if you choose. Some women choose not to have any pain relief options, while others choose more complete pain relief.

The most popular pain relief option is an epidural. If you choose an epidural, an anesthesiologist will use a needle to place a small tube into the area around your spinal cord (called the dura). The anesthesiologist can then give you pain medicine directly into your spine so that you can’t feel contractions. You may still feel a little pain and pressure even after you have an epidural, which can help you know when to push. However, you won’t be able to walk or move around after you have an epidural.

Epidurals aren’t your only choice in pain relief. You can also try nitrous oxide (laughing gas). You may have had nitrous oxide at the dentist when getting a tooth pulled. If you use nitrous oxide, you will be in control of the tube connected to the nitrous oxide. During a contraction, you will breathe through the tube, then take the tube away when the contraction is done. Nitrous oxide can dull the pain of a contraction, but won’t entirely stop pain.

You can also use pain medicine through an IV or as an injection if you don’t want an epidural but would like pain relief. Pain medicines can help you relax and even get a little sleep while you are in labor. They may also make your baby a little sleepy, but they are not dangerous for you or your baby.

You should talk to your doctor about all your pain options to figure out which one is best for you. All women want to experience labor differently, so creating a birth plan can help you figure out what pain relief options you want.

You can choose to bring your baby into the world in different ways. You may have a vaginal delivery while sitting in a bed, squatting on a birthing ball or sitting in a warm tub.

You and your doctor might also decide you should have a C-section depending on your health and your baby’s health. C-sections are safe and can save lives in an emergency situation. Even if you have a C-section, you might be able to choose to deliver any future babies vaginally (called a VBAC).

Whatever options you choose for your labor and delivery experience, know that your care team at Bellevue Woman’s Center will be working to keep you and your baby safe and healthy.

If you’ve created a birth plan that outlines how you want to deliver, the experience in the room, and the pain relief options you prefer, make sure to bring a copy with you to the hospital. At Bellevue, we’ll do whatever we can to stick to your plan for as long as we are medically able to do so. Make sure you go over your birth plan with your provider to assure make sure he/she is aware of what you want.

Haven’t created your birth plan yet?

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Have more questions about labor and delivery at Bellevue? Contact us at 518.346.9400.

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