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Labor and Birth

By now, you probably have your baby’s name picked out—or at least narrowed down to a select few—and the little outfit he or she will go home in. No doubt you’ve been eagerly and anxiously waiting for this moment: it’s delivery day!

Before you head to the hospital, make sure you have your overnight bag, your birth plan and a pediatrician to notify when your baby is born.

How will I know if I’m in labor?

When you’re given a due date, it’s only an estimate; no one knows exactly when your baby will come. However, there are some telltale signs for when you’re in labor and when you should head to the hospital:

  • Bloody show – A small amount of mucus, slightly mixed with blood, may be expelled from the vagina.
  • Contractions – Contractions, or uterine muscle tightening, that occur less than 10 minutes apart are usually a sign that labor has begun. They’ll become more frequent and severe as labor progresses.
  • Rupture of the amniotic sac – Labor sometimes begins when your “water breaks,” or when amniotic fluid gushes or leaks from the vagina. If this happens, go to the hospital immediately and contact your doctor or midwife.

If you’re not sure whether you’re in labor, call your healthcare provider.

See signs of preterm labor.

Tell the difference between real labor and Braxton-Hicks contractions.

What are my options for pain relief during labor and delivery?

Depending on your preference, your health, your baby’s health and your doctor or midwife’s recommendation, you have three general types of pain management:

  • Nonmedicated measures – Techniques to promote comfort and relieve stress, such as breathing, meditation, imagery and movement. This approach is also known as natural childbirth.
  • Analgesics – Medications, such as meperidine, to relieve pain, commonly used with very few complications.
  • Anesthesia – Medications that cause loss of sensation, such as a local block or epidural anesthesia.

Not sure which route you’d like to take? Explore the three main types of pain management.

What can I expect during birth?

Delivery can happen either vaginally or by cesarean section (C-section). No matter which way your baby comes into the world, your care team will keep an eye on your vital signs and your baby’s heart rate to head off any complications and support you both on a very special birthday!

Learn about possible labor complications.

Read about delivering your baby.

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