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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 are happening.

Birthing Options

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.

Managing Pain

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 during labor.


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