It’s difficult for your OBGYN to determine exactly when you will deliver your baby. Labor and delivery is different for every mother and newborn. The onset of labor is usually indicated by the following:
- A bloody show – This is the bloodstained mucus discharge that appears when the cervix begins to stretch. Until labor, this plug in the cervix seals off the uterus. This can precede labor by a few weeks, so your OBGYN may not have you go to the hospital unless other signs of labor are present.
- Your water breaks – When the membranes surrounding the baby have been pressed to the point where they can no longer withstand the pressure, the membrane breaks. It may occur with a gush, or a slow trickle. Contact your OBGYN as soon as this happens.
- Contractions start – This feels like menstrual cramps over the lower portion of the abdomen and around the back. Contractions usually increase in intensity over 25 to 30 seconds and then ease. Once you feel several contractions in a row, you should start to time them. Labor contractions have a regular rhythm and last longer, while the interval between contractions is reduced. Many women experience Braxton-Hicks contractions, or false labor, starting around the 35th week of pregnancy. They are usually irregular and may be less intense.
What to Expect During Labor
Once labor is underway, it is divided into three stages:
- Stage 1 – Begins with the dilation (opening) of the cervix and mild contractions and ends when the cervix is fully dilated at 10 centimeters with stronger contractions. It is the longest stage of labor, lasting on the average, about 12 hours, and is typically longer in first pregnancies, and shorter with subsequent births.
- Stage 2 – Begins once the cervix is fully dilated. This is where you will feel a strong urge to push. This stage typically lasts anywhere from 1-3 hours. You will bear down with each contraction and push your baby out.
- Stage 3 – This is the final stage of labor – the delivery of the afterbirth, or placenta. It is the shortest stage, lasting about 15 minutes.
Understanding the discomfort of labor is an important component in dealing with it. Women are encouraged to participate in CentraState’s prenatal childbirth classes, where much effort goes into explaining what to expect and how to deal with labor pains.
There are a variety of pain-relieving drugs available under the supervision of your OBGYN. It is wise to discuss pain relief with your OBGYN before you deliver, keeping in mind that your actual labor experience may cause you to change your plan once labor is underway.
CentraState offers patients a range of anesthesia options during labor:
- Narcotics – These are the most widely-used medications during labor. They take effect in as little as two minutes. Narcotics take the edge off of the pain, and some women report that these medications help them to deal with the strongest contractions.
- Local anesthetics – These medications can be injected into the area around the vagina and perineum shortly before delivery.
Talk to your OBGYN regarding pain relief options that are appropriate for your labor.
Some women find alternative birthing options extremely helpful in dealing with the pain of childbirth. These include aromatherapy and whirlpool baths. These are both offered at CentraState. For more information on alternative therapies for delivery at CentraState, call (732) 308-0570.