What to Expect Before and During Labor

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Before Labor

Is it Time? Your bags are packed and you’re ready to go. You’re feeling contractions. Still, true labor may not have yet begun. Sometimes, trying to tell the difference between true and false labor can be difficult, even downright discouraging, and every women’s experience is different. Be patient, and know the signs of true labor. These include:

  • Strong contractions that are getting closer together.
  • Contractions are felt “all over” rather than just in the abdomen.
  • Bloody show: Loss of mucus plug – a thick brown mucus discharge that may be mixed with blood.
  • Membranes or “water” may rupture.

There are three stages of labor. The first begins with the onset of contractions and ends when the cervix is dilated to 10 centimeters. The second stage involves delivering the baby and the third stage involves delivery of the placenta and membranes, or "afterbirth".

Ready, Set, Not Yet

These last weeks of pregnancy sometimes seem to go on forever. Contractions may get stronger at times and make you wonder if this could be it. Sometimes it is frustrating to come to the hospital with these labor pains, only to be sent home with your baby still inside rather than in your arms. True labor contractions will cause changes in your cervix. Contractions may stop or your labor may be in its early stages. This pre-labor period is helping the body get ready for the big day, but not yet. We recommend that this early pre-labor period is best spent in places you find comfortable. In the mean time, if you are finding it difficult to concentrate on anything but the birth of your baby, here are some tips to help keep you comfortable through the hours, days or weeks while you are waiting.

If labor has stopped or slowed down…

  • Sleep or just rest.
  • Snuggle with or be close to your partner.
  • Eat or drink something.
  • Go for a walk.
  • Get a foot, hand, shoulder or back massage.
  • Go shopping.
  • Go to a movie or rent the funniest video you can find.
  • Go to your favorite room in your home and slowly relax each part of your body.
  • Remind yourself that you will not be pregnant forever.

During Labor

The length of labor is different for every woman. In general, a woman’s first childbirth will be her longest. After the first baby, labor is usually shorter. About half of women will have a labor that lasts at least 12 hours. Here are some ways to cope with labor as contractions get stronger: Coping with Labor As contractions get stronger you may need added ways to cope with labor:

  • Go for a walk.
  • Rock in a rocking chair.
  • Take a shower or bath.
  • Slow dance.
  • Relax between contractions.
  • Change positions often.
  • Find someone to tell you what a good job you are doing.
  • Try slow deep breathing.
  • Drink water, juice or other clear liquids.
  • Use lip balm on dry lips.
  • Watch a movie.
  • Hold hands with someone you love.
  • Pray.
  • Suck on a sour lollipop or popsicle.
  • Cool yourself with a washcloth dipped in ice water.
  • Use the bathroom often.
  • For lower backache, try ice packs, heat or switch between hot and cold. Use a tennis ball, rolling pin or doorknob for counter pressure.
  • Congratulate yourself for being such a patient new parent.
  • Think of the baby coming down and out to meet you soon.

MemorialCare supports both Lamaze and medicated deliveries. If you choose epidural pain relief during labor and delivery or require a cesarean section, our anesthesiologists are on staff and in the hospitals at all times to provide quality care.

For more information about the stages of labor and what to expect, sign up to attend an educational class.