Women’s Health A-Z
Labor & Delivery
You are considered full term at 37 weeks. As your due date approaches, you may experience symptoms, such as an increase in vaginal discharge and Braxton Hicks contractions, that indicate that you are getting close to labor and delivery. Your water may also break. When your water breaks, it doesn’t always come out in a huge gush like the movies. It can come out as a persistent trickle. If you think your water has broken, you should call us. Another important reason to call us is if you aren’t feeling your baby move like normal.
Regular, frequent contractions signal the onset of labor, and it’s important to keep track of them so you know when to call your physician. When you have your first baby, you should call us when your contractions are five minutes apart for two hours. If this isn’t your first baby, you should call when contractions are seven to eight minutes apart for one hour. If you are not yet full term, and you are experiencing regular contractions, you should call our office as they could be a sign of preterm labor. You may be scheduled for a labor induction if you are past your due date or if your medical history indicates that it is needed.
During the first stage of labor, your contractions will increase, which helps dilate and thin your cervix to make room for the baby. This is when most women are admitted to the hospital for delivery. As your contractions and discomfort intensify, you may feel pressure in your abdomen as your body prepares for delivery. Eventually, your cervix will become fully dilated, and contractions should be just a few minutes apart. During labor, you will have the option of having pain medication to ease the discomfort of labor.
Once your cervix is fully dilated (opened), you can begin to push during contractions to move your baby through the birth canal. This can take anywhere from 20 minutes to a few hours. A medical provider will help guide the baby out, and the umbilical cord will be cut. Congratulations! You can finally meet your baby! You’re not quite done though, as you’ll also deliver the placenta and undergo repair of any lacerations that occurred during delivery. Once all of that is over, you can bond with your new baby and start breastfeeding.
Cesarean Birth (C-Section)
For some women, a c-section may be safer than a vaginal delivery and may even be scheduled. You may also have complications during labor, such as your baby being too big to pass through your pelvis or the baby’s heart rate may be too concerning to wait for a vaginal delivery. These are just a couple of the reasons that require you to deliver via c-section.
To prepare for a c-section, a nurse will clean your belly and move you to the operating room where you will be given a catheter for your bladder, antibiotics, and any other fluids or medications that are necessary. You’ll be numb during the surgery, but you’ll still be awake. Your doctor will make an incision across your belly and then across your uterus. They will then open the amniotic sac and deliver the baby. You won’t feel any pain, but you may feel pressure. You’ll get to meet your baby as your surgical team cuts the umbilical cord, removes the placenta, and closes your abdomen.
Unfortunately, complications can occur during pregnancy, labor and delivery. A medical team will be monitoring you and your baby throughout the process to ensure the best outcome possible. Of course, they will be sure to keep you informed along the way and you are encouraged to ask any questions!