What to Expect After Labor Begins

What should you expect once you finally go into labor?

How long will labor last? Is my baby doing all right? How bad is the pain going to be?

You can't know the answers to these questions in advance. But there are certain procedures you can learn about now that can help prepare you for what lies ahead.

It helps to understand the medical routine that will follow your admission to a hospital or birthing center before the process of childbirth is underway. It's a good idea to tour the medical center to become familiar with its facilities.

Print these general guidelines and review them with your health-care provider to ensure that you understand what to expect once you arrive at the hospital or birthing center.

When you get there, you will probably follow these steps:

  • You'll be admitted.
  • You'll be taken to an examination room or your birthing room.
  • You'll be interviewed by a nurse to assess which symptoms you're feeling.
  • You'll sign consent forms and other routine documents.
  • You'll be given an initial pelvic exam by a physician or nurse to determine how much your cervix has dilated and effaced.
  • You'll be hooked up to various monitors to ensure close monitoring of you and your unborn baby -- keeping you both safe during this crucial period.
  • An IV may be started. The purpose of the IV is to provide hydration if needed in the later stages of labor and to allow intravenous medication if it's needed suddenly. An IV is necessary if epidural anesthesia is used.
  • Your physician or nurse will discuss with you the possibility of rupturing your membranes if they have not already ruptured.
  • You'll be invited to rock in a chair, walk around with your labor coach, or possibly take a warm shower. The key is to relax and communicate with your labor coach and medical staff so they can help make you as comfortable as possible.
  • The labor nurse and physician will monitor you to note your progress (or lack thereof) and also will monitor your baby's vital signs, but they may leave you alone with your coach. If you want to talk to your nurse or doctor, don't be shy about calling for her.
  • You'll be kept well hydrated during your labor and you'll be encouraged to urinate frequently. You may also have a catheter inserted to remove urine if labor isn't progressing as expected.
  • As labor progresses, you and your physician will discuss your progress, as well as any necessary interventions (should the need for them develop).

You should discuss use of pain medications or monitors with your care provider well in advance. Also write down your wishes or birth plan and let your labor partner remind your provider of these. Then you'll have the added peace of mind that comes from sharing clear communication with your provider and understanding what you can expect from the staff during the birthing process.

All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.

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