How to Prepare for Delivery

Labor and delivery will be less stressful if you plan ahead. To get ready:
How to Prepare for Delivery
  • Decide where you will deliver. Most women deliver in a hospital or birthing center. Contact your health plan to learn your options. Visit the facility beforehand—note directions, parking, and where to check-in. 
  • Find out how to reach the doctor when you are in labor. 
  • Ask your doctor about what to expect during labor. If you are worried about pain, ask about ways to manage pain during labor. Some women do fine with natural childbirth. Others are helped by epidural or pain medicines. 
  • Discuss how to care for your newborn, including deciding about breastfeeding or bottle-feeding, and circumcision if you have a boy. 
  • Pack a bag with your health insurance card, bras and nursing pads, nursing pillows, sleeping clothes, toiletries, and going-home outfits for you and your baby. 

How do I know if contractions are real labor? 

It is common to have Braxton Hicks, or “practice,” contractions in the last weeks of pregnancy or earlier. The tightening of your uterus might startle you. But these contractions are not in a regular pattern, and they taper off and go away. If you are unsure whether contractions are real labor, time them. If they become regular, stronger, or more frequent, call your doctor.

Signs of labor: 

Call your doctor right away if you have any of these signs of labor:
  • Contractions become stronger at regular and increasingly shorter intervals.
  • Lower back pain and constant cramping.
  • Water breaking.
  • Bloody mucus discharge Labor occurs in three stages. How labor progresses and how long it lasts are different for every woman. The first stage begins with the onset of labor and ends when the cervix is fully opened (dilated). 

Many women spend the early part of labor at home. Your doctor will tell you when to go to the hospital or birthing center. The second stage involves the pushing and delivery of your baby. Pushing is hard work, and a support person can really help keep you focused. The third stage involves the delivery of the placenta (afterbirth). Once the placenta is delivered, you can rest and enjoy your newborn.

Did my water break?

It’s not always easy to know. If your water breaks, it could be a gush or a slow trickle of amniotic fluid. Let your doctor know the time your water breaks and any color or odor. Also, call your doctor if you think your water broke, but are not sure. Often a woman will go into labor soon after her water breaks. When this doesn't happen, her doctor may want to induce (bring about) labor. This is because once your water breaks, your risk of getting an infection goes up as labor is delayed.

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