Childbirth, Signs of True Labor
Signs of Labor
Remember the signs of true labor, so that you will know when
you are having the "real thing:"
Contractions at regular and increasingly shorter intervals
that also become stronger in intensity.
Lower back pain that doesn't go away. You might also feel
premenstrual and crampy.
Your water breaks (can be a large gush or a continuous trickle)
and is accompanied by contractions.
A bloody (brownish or blood-tinged) mucous discharge. This
is the mucous plug that blocks the cervix. Labor could be
at any time, or days away.
Your cervix is dilating (opening up) and becoming thinner
and softer (also called effacement). During a pelvic exam,
your health care provider will be able to tell if these things
You may have several options available for where you will
have your baby, including at home, in a birth center, or at
a hospital. Birth centers usually can administer intravenous
fluid, pain medications, and oxygen, and are able to repair
episiotomies. They also have basic equipment to start emergency
treatment if it is necessary. Hospitals have more advanced
medical equipment to care for a baby whose health or life
is in danger, and will be able to provide a cesarean section
or epidurals, if necessary. If your pregnancy is considered
to be at high risk (as in women who smoke, or use drugs, or
have medical complications due to a known condition), home
births are not recommended.
You also can choose what type of health care provider you
would like to deliver your baby. An obstetrician (OB) is a
medical doctor who specializes in prenatal care and in delivering
babies in a hospital. A certified nurse-midwife (CNM) also
specializes in prenatal care and labor and delivery, and can
deliver your baby at the hospital, in a birth center, or at
home. There are other types of midwives as well. Some women
also choose to have a doula assist with labor and delivery.
A doula is a professional support person who helps give physical
support, such as advice on breathing, relaxation, movement
and positioning during labor. Doulas also give continuous
emotional support and comfort to women and their partners
during labor and birth. Doula's and midwives often work together
during a woman's labor.
You may also be interested in taking childbirth preparation
classes, such as Lamaze, which emphasizes minimal medical
intervention, teaches coping methods for labor and delivery,
and helps guide new parents in the many decisions they will
make before and during the birth process.
One of the things you may be most concerned with is the amount
of pain you may have during labor. Childbirth is different
for all women, and no one can predict how much pain you will
have. During the labor process, your health care provider
should ask you if you need pain relief, and will help you
decide what option is the best for you. Your options may include
a local or intravenous analgesic (pain relieving drug), an
epidural (injection which blocks pain in the lower part of
your body), spinal anesthesia (used when the delivery will
require forceps, or a pudenal block (numbs the vulva, vagina
and anus during the second stage of labor and during delivery).
Your progression through the different stages of labor and
delivery will determine how quickly the baby is coming, and
whether you have time to get to the hospital, birth center,
or back home to deliver. Having information about your choices
for birthing will help with some of the stress you may feel