Atrium Health Navicent Women's Care Maternal Fetal Medicine

Labor and Delivery

Pregnant woman sitting on an exercise ball

As the pregnancy comes to a completion, you might begin to have questions about the labor and delivery process, especially if you have experienced a high-risk pregnancy. There are several things that could cause you to be considered high risks, such as gestational diabetes, other health conditions that are not related to the pregnancy, the condition of the baby or your age. Your doctor will discuss all of the options that are available to you in regards to labor and delivery so that you are prepared for any situation that might arise. Most of the time, you can deliver the baby as normal with no complications.

All Are Different

Whether you have children at home or this is your first labor and delivery, you should know that each birth is different. One baby could be born within a few minutes of contractions starting while it might take another baby a few days to deliver. In this situation, the doctor will usually prescribe Pitocin to begin contractions and will monitor the oxygen levels of you and the baby. If the doctor sees something that is of a concern, then a C-section might be needed to get the baby delivered as soon as possible.

The First Stages

There is no real way to determine when labor will begin, but there are a few signs that you can look for and that the doctor will look for at your final visits. One thing that you might notice is that the baby feels lower in the stomach. This is called lightening. The baby begins to move down to the birth canal in preparation for delivery. Some women describe it as pain in the back while others simply feel like the baby is sitting very low in the stomach area. Some people might notice that the shape of your stomach has changed and that the baby appears lower from the outside. When you go to the bathroom, you might notice a small amount of blood in the urine. You could also see brown spotting or a small amount of discharge. This is often the mucus plug being released from the cervix. Once the plug is released, it usually means that the water will break soon. The water could gush from the vagina, or it could be a slow trickle. Once your water breaks, it is usually time to head to the hospital, as contractions will soon begin.

Laboring To Completion

There is a reason why delivering a baby is called labor. Some women do not experience a lot of pain at all and can deliver a baby in only a few pushes while many women endure a few hours of pushing before the baby is born. Your doctor can order an epidural to relieve the pain associated with contractions. However, the amount of medication that you are given will need to be monitored so that it does not affect the baby. Once the cervix is dilated to 10 cm, it is time to push. The baby will move through the birth canal with each push, so it is important to continue with each breath that you can get to get the baby out as soon as possible. Once the baby is delivered, it is usually cleaned off and examined before being placed on your chest.