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Labor & Delivery: What to Expect

Labor and Delivery: This is a guide on what to expect in a hospital labor and delivery of your baby. Your experience may deviate from this guide, as the labor, baby, delivery experience is never a predictable event.

Labor & Delivery: Induction

If you are being induced, your doctor and you will schedule the labor and delivery date together. You will be asked to arrive at the hospital at a certain time, most likely early in the morning. Some hospitals may require that you call ahead to be sure that there is space in the maternity ward that day.

Labor & Delivery: Natural Labor

If you are going into labor naturally, you will call your doctor before you go, to let her know the status of your contractions. She may meet you there, or she may periodically check your progress by phone, depending on how urgent the situation is.

Labor & Delivery: Welcome & Check-In

Upon your arrival, you will be asked to check in at labor & delivery, unless you are in serious labor. You will fill out some forms at the check in counter, most likely some insurance forms and a living will (optional). You will then be issued your hospital bracelet. Your baby will receive a matching bracelet when he is delivered.

You will then be showed to your labor and delivery room where your baby will soon make his entrance. In many cases, you will be moved to a different room after your baby is born. Your labor and delivery room may already have the station where the baby is placed after birth to check his APGAR score. It will probably also have a hospital bed, monitoring equipment, bathroom, guest chair, and a TV. A hospital gown may be lying on the bed for you to put on.

You will then be introduced to your labor and delivery nurse. She will try and stay with you throughout your labor and the delivery of baby, unless your labor is unusually long. Your nurse will make you feel welcome and comfortable. She will most likely hook you up to a monitor, which tracks the frequency and duration of your contractions and your baby’s heartbeat. She will then give you an IV in your hand, which you will most likely keep during the whole labor and delivery process. If you are being induced, she will administer pitocin, which is the synthetic form of oxytocin, through your IV to start labor contractions.

At this point, your doctor may or may not come in to check on you. If not, the nurse will perform regular checks of your cervix to check dilation and effacement. When the doctor does check in, you will both decide whether or not and when to get your epidural.

Labor & Delivery: Epidural

If you decide to have an epidural, the anesthesiologist or your doctor will perform the procedure. In most cases, the epidural is no more, and perhaps, less painful than the IV prick. They will ask you to lean on something or someone and totally relax your back. A local anesthetic will be administered in your spinal area. They will then insert a needle with a catheter into your back. The epidural will be inserted into the catheter. It will feel cold going in and you will slowly feel your feet and legs numb. The Anesthesiologist will ask you a couple of times what you can feel or whether you can move your legs.

Labor & Delivery: Stages of Labor

There are four stages of labor.

  • Early or Latent Labor: Contractions will be regular, occurring every 5-20 minutes and lasting 30-45 seconds each. During this stage, your cervix may dilate from 0-3 centimeters. You may lose your mucous plug or have “bloody show”. When this occurs, you will have spotting or notice a blood tinged mucus discharge. It is possible to lose your mucus plug hours or even days before early labor. The early labor stage can last anywhere from 2-12 hours. Many first time moms have a longer early labor stage. Try to remain walking and cautiously active during this stage. Also, be sure to call your practitioner to let them know when you go into labor. You should go to the hospital by the end of the early labor stage.
  • Active Labor: Contractions will occur every 3-5 minutes, lasting 45-60 seconds each. Contractions will become increasingly more painful if you have not had an epidural. If you choose not to have an epidural yet, try to change positions often and continue to walk if you can. Your cervix will dilate from 3-7 cm during active labor.
  • Transition Labor: Contractions will occur every 2-3 minutes, lasting 60-90 seconds each. Contractions are very intense and painful. This, thankfully, is the shortest stage of labor, lasting between 15-60 minutes. At this time, you will dilate to 10 cm. Time to get ready for delivery soon.
  • Pushing: The pushing stage of labor usually lasts 30-90 minutes. Contractions will not be quite as intense as transition labor, but will occur every 3-5 minutes. You will most likely feel the urge to push out baby at this stage. Your practitioner will guide you as to how and when to push. Pushing is an exhaustive process, but you will experience renewed energy after your baby’s head is out. When your baby is delivered, they will place her on your stomach and clamp her umbilical cord. You or Dad will have the option to cut the cord. If you decline, the doctor will do so for you. Your baby's nose and mouth will be suctioned out until she can breathe on her own. You will then have a chance to gaze into your new baby’s eyes. The baby will then be taken to the warmer for her APGAR test to determine her health.
  • Delivery of Placenta: The last stage of delivery is the delivery of the placenta. This may occur up to 45 minutes after your baby is delivered. You will experience heavy bleeding and mild contractions as the placenta is expelled.

Find out what happens in the hospital after labor and delivery.

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