Your Pregnancy Quick Guide: Labor and Delivery


By Glade Curtis

By Judith Schuler

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Tips for preparing mentally and physically for the big day How to recognize the onset of labor When to go to the hospital after labor begins Guidance on choosing between natural childbirth and one with medical intervention What you need to know about Cesarean delivery Information on the different pain relief options Advice for your partner or labor coach An overview of the tests you’ll go through during and after delivery


One of the greatest concerns pregnant women have is labor and delivery. It is unique, unlike any experience you have ever had before. You may be a little nervous about what's going to happen. That's natural. But be positive—this is a wonderful miracle for you and your partner.
You probably have lots of questions and concerns. Work with your doctor to make your labor and delivery a good experience. Learn what you need to know and to do to be prepared—ask about what will happen, the medications you might be offered, what prompts your doctor to do a C-section. Ask your doctor to tell you what you can do to have a healthy pregnancy. Discuss any concerns you may have. Below are some things you may want to consider as you progress through your pregnancy.
• Become informed about pregnancy and the birth experience. Knowledge is power. When you understand what can and will occur during labor and delivery, you may be able to relax more. Read our other pregnancy books, discuss questions and concerns with your doctor and share information and your knowledge with your partner.
• The relationships you have with your doctor and other members of your healthcare team are very important. Be an active member of the team by following medical suggestions. Expect your medical team to work hard for you. Each of you should support the other.
• Being able to help make decisions about labor and delivery, including birth positions, pain-relief methods and your partner's level of participation in labor and delivery, helps you feel more in control. Discuss questions and various situations with your doctor at prenatal appointments.
The best advice we can give you before your labor begins is to relax. No one knows what's going to happen. Even medical professionals can be surprised by what occurs. Women have been having babies for a very long time, so you're not the first! Before you know it, you'll be holding the baby you've been waiting so long to meet. You may even say, "That wasn't so bad!"
Note: Throughout the book, you will find boxes titled "What Can I Do? How Can I Help?" for your partner. This is a time many expectant dads fear. They want to help but don't know how. Few know how they will handle the experience of labor and childbirth. Many men worry about their partner and how this whole situation will change their couple relationship. We offer tips, suggestions and ideas to help involve your partner more in this wondrous time you will share.

Part I: Getting Ready before Labor Begins

Preparing for Baby's Birth

• You may be feeling a little nervous about the birth. You might be afraid you won't know when it's time to call the doctor or go to the hospital.
• Don't hesitate to talk to your doctor about it at one of your visits. He or she will tell you what signs to watch for.
• In prenatal classes, you should also learn to recognize the signs of labor and when you should call your doctor or go to the hospital.
• Your bag of waters may break before you go into labor. In most cases, you'll notice this as a gush of water followed by a steady leaking. (See page 66.)
• During the last few weeks of pregnancy, have your suitcase packed and ready to go. See the discussion beginning on page 28 for some helpful suggestions. You'll have things you want at the hospital.
• Have insurance papers filled out and available.
• If you can, tour the hospital facilities a few weeks before your due date. Find out where to go and what happens when you get there.
• Talk with your partner about the best ways to reach him if you think you are in labor.
• Ask your doctor what you should do if you think you're in labor. Is it best to call the office? Should you go directly to the hospital? Should you call the answering service? By knowing what to do and when to do it, you'll be able to relax a little and not worry about the beginning of labor and delivery.
• It may be helpful and save time if you register at the hospital a few weeks before your due date. You can get forms at your doctor's office or from the hospital. It helps to do this before you go to the hospital in labor because you may be in a hurry and concerned with other things.
• You should know certain facts, including the following:
~ your blood type and Rh-factor
~ when your last period was and what your due date is
~ details of any past pregnancies, including complications
~ your doctor's name
~ your pediatrician's name
• Signs that your labor may be about to begin include:
~ increase of Braxton-Hicks contractions (see page 4)
~ feeling the baby "drop" lower into your pelvis (see page 68)
~ weight loss or a break in weight gain
~ increased pressure in the pelvis and rectum
~ changes in vaginal discharge
~ diarrhea
Tips for the Expectant Dad
What Can I Do? How Can I Help?
In the weeks before baby's birth, help your partner fill out all the forms she will be given—hospital forms, insurance forms and any other forms she receives. It's easier to fill them out together so you can each provide necessary personal data.

Keep Your Options Open during Labor and Delivery

When planning for your labor and delivery, think about the method(s) you may use to get through the process.
• Will you have epidural anesthesia?
• Are you going to attempt a drug-free delivery?
• Will you need an episiotomy?
• Every woman is different, and every labor is different. It's difficult to anticipate what will happen and what you will need during labor and delivery for pain relief.
• It's impossible to know how long labor will last—3 hours or 20 hours.
• Make a flexible plan.
• Understand what's available and what options you can choose during labor.
• During the last 2 months of your pregnancy, discuss these concerns with your doctor and become familiar with his or her philosophy about labor.
• Know what can be provided for you at the hospital you've chosen. For example, some medications may not be available in your area or a pain-relief method may not be used at the hospital you choose.
Tips for the Expectant Dad
What Can I Do? How Can I Help?
Ask your partner to involve you in her plans for labor and delivery. Go to prenatal visits with her so the two of you can each ask the doctor questions about what will happen before, during and after labor and delivery.

Braxton-Hicks Contractions and False Labor

Braxton-Hicks contractions are painless, nonrhythmical contractions you may be able to feel when you place your hand on your abdomen. These contractions often begin early in pregnancy and are felt at irregular intervals. They may increase in number and strength when the uterus is massaged. They are not positive signs of true labor.
False labor often occurs before true labor begins. False-labor contractions can be painful and may feel like real labor to you. In most instances, false-labor contractions are irregular. They are usually of short duration (less than 45 seconds). Discomfort may occur in various parts of your body, such as the groin, lower abdomen or back.
• False labor is usually seen in late pregnancy. It seems to occur more often in women who have been pregnant before and delivered more babies. It usually stops as quickly as it begins. There doesn't appear to be any danger to you or your baby.
• With true labor, uterine contractions produce pain that starts at the top of the uterus and radiates over the entire uterus, through the lower back into the pelvis. Ask your doctor what the signs of labor contractions are; they are usually regular.
• Contractions increase in duration and strength over time. You'll notice a regular rhythm to real labor contractions.
• You'll want to time contractions so you know how frequently they occur and how long they last. When you go to the hospital depends in part on your contractions.
True Labor or False Labor?
Considerations True Labor False Labor
Contractions RegularIrregular
Time between contractions Come closer togetherDo not get closer together
Contraction intensity IncreasesDoesn't change
Location of contractions Entire abdomenVarious locations or back
Effect of anesthetic or pain relievers Will not stop laborSedation may stop or alter frequency of pain
Cervical change Progressive cervical changeNo cervical change

Childbirth-Education Classes

You and your partner can be better prepared for what lies ahead if you take a birth-preparation course. About 90% of all first-time expectant parents take some type of class. Women who take childbirth classes need less medication, have fewer forceps deliveries and feel more positive about birth than women who don't take classes.
• The goal of a class is to provide you with information so you can be prepared to make the best, most well-informed decisions during your labor and delivery.
• If you're better prepared, you'll be more at ease during labor and delivery.
• The list below can help you evaluate whether a childbirth-education class is right for you as a couple.
~ Class was recommended by your doctor or his or her office staff.
~ Class uses a philosophy shared by your doctor.
~ Class begins when you need it, around the 7th month of pregnancy.
~ Class size is small—no more than 10 or 12 couples—and classroom is large enough to allow you the opportunity to practice (on the floor) what you learn in class.
~ Class includes a tour of the hospital and the labor and delivery areas (if it is a hospital-sponsored class).
~ Graduates are enthusiastic. (Locate some, and ask about the class.)
~ Class is candid about the birth experience. Pain during labor and delivery is not glossed over or downplayed.
~ Class covers inducing labor, Cesarean delivery, episiotomies and different types of pain-relief methods.
~ You get to view videos of an actual birth and a C-section.
~ Information is provided about postpartum distress, circumcision and feeding baby.
~ Class includes the time and the opportunity to ask questions, practice techniques and talk to parents who have recently given birth.
~ Class involves doctors (anesthesiologists, pediatricians) and/or nurses.
• Most childbirth-education classes run 4 to 6 weeks—you and your labor coach attend one class each week.
• If you can't find the time in your schedules to attend this many classes, consider an all-day class or a weekend class. A short class is better than no class!
• Or consider private, individualized sessions in your home. An instructor comes to you, when you are free; classes can be as long or as short as your schedules permit.
• Sign up for your class early in the second trimester, so you'll be sure to have a place, and you'll be able to finish it before your due date.
• Practice what you learn in your classes.
• If you can't find a way to go to classes, at least take a tour of the hospital or birthing center you have chosen. It'll help you feel more comfortable when it's time for baby to be born.
• Check out the qualifications of the person teaching the class (most are women). Also see page 14.
• Some instructors are medically trained, such as a labor-and-delivery nurse; others have no medical training at all.
• Once you have found a class you think will work for you, find out how long it lasts, how much it costs, what the class curriculum includes, the instructor's credentials and the childbirth philosophy of the class (is there just one?).
• Then you and your partner will be able to decide whether a particular class is just right for you!

What Will You Learn in a Class?

• By meeting in class on a regular basis, you can learn about many things that concern you.
• Classes are intended to help you and your partner or labor coach learn about pregnancy, what happens at the hospital and what happens during labor and delivery.
• Some couples find classes are a good way to get a partner more involved and to help make him feel more comfortable with the pregnancy, labor and delivery.
• Classes may give your partner the opportunity to take a more active part during your pregnancy and at the time of labor and delivery.
• Classes often cover a wide range of subjects, including the following areas.
~ What are the different childbirth methods?
~ What is "natural childbirth"?
~ What is a Cesarean delivery?
~ What pain-relief methods are available?
~ What you need to know (and to practice) for the childbirth method you choose.
~ Is an episiotomy always necessary?
~ What are the benefits of an enema?
~ When is a fetal monitor necessary?
~ What happens when you reach the hospital?
~ Is an epidural or some other type of anesthesia right for you?
~ In addition, your class may provide you information about lactation consultants, doulas, other types of care and additional resources you may find valuable.
• A class is also a great way to connect with other expectant couples.
Tips for the Expectant Dad
What Can I Do? How Can I Help?
Childbirth-education classes are good for you both—if your partner asks you to attend the classes, go! Together you will learn many things that can help you during labor and delivery. Information is also provided about the days and weeks after baby's birth, so you can get a good start at being a dad.

Who Goes to Prenatal Classes?

• Classes are usually held for small groups of pregnant women and their partners or labor coaches. It helps to be able to interact with other couples and to ask questions. It's also comforting to know other couples are concerned about many of the same things you are, such as labor and pain management. It's good to know you aren't the only one thinking about what lies ahead.
• Prenatal classes are not only for couples who are pregnant for the first time. If you have a new partner, if it has been a few years since you've had a baby, if you have questions or if you would like a review of what lies ahead, a prenatal class can help you.
• These classes may help reduce worry or concern you and your partner feel about labor and delivery. They'll help you enjoy the birth of your baby even more.

Where Do You Take the Classes?

• Childbirth classes are offered in many places.
• Most hospitals that deliver babies offer prenatal classes, often taught by labor-and-delivery nurses or by a midwife.
• If you take a class taught by the hospital personnel where you will give birth, you'll learn about the hospital's policies and services.
• Hospital classes often offer tours of the maternity ward and the nursery.
• These classes are often quite large, so you may not get a lot of personal attention.
• In addition, hospital classes may not fully discuss non-drug pain management and relaxation techniques.


On Sale
Apr 30, 2009
Page Count
184 pages

Glade Curtis

About the Author

Glade B. Curtis, M.D., M.P.H., is board-certified by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the father of five. He lives in Utah.

Judith Schuler, M.S., has worked and cowritten books with Dr. Curtis for more than twenty years. Ms. Schuler divides her time between homes in Wyoming and Arizona.

Learn more about this author

Judith Schuler

About the Author

Glade B. Curtis, MD, MPH, is board certified by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the father of five. He lives in Utah.

Judith Schuler, MS, the mother of one son, has co-authored seventeen books with Dr. Curtis in the last twenty-five years. She lives in Wyoming and Arizona.

Learn more about this author