Planning Labor

Watching for warning signs during pregnancy

At this point in your pregnancy, it is very important that you pay attention to your body. If you have a problem that seems like more than a "common discomfort" of pregnancy, be sure to contact your health care provider right away.

Often, expectant parents enter labor thinking that it will be like the "text book labor" they learned about in class. Remember, no one can predict what your labor will be like or how long it will be! The reality, in the United States, is between 1/4 and 1/3 of all deliveries are cesarean---an increase of almost 6% from 1999 to 2001.

Regardless of the circumstances of your pregnancy, it is important to spend some time considering and planning for "unexpected" occurrences in your labor and birth and delivery.

If you notice any of the following symptoms, contact your health care provider right away:

  • Bleeding from the vagina
  • Continuous sharp abdominal pain or cramping
  • Sudden gush of fluid from the vagina
  • Swelling or puffiness in the face or hands
  • Severe headache
  • Large, sudden weight gain
  • Fainting or dizziness
  • Low, dull back ache
  • Blurred eye sight or spots before your eyes
  • Chills or fever
  • Painful urination or cloudy/bloody urine
  • Severe nausea or vomiting
  • A rash or unusual sores
  • Decreased movement of the baby
  • If you experience any abdominal injury

Pre-term labor is labor that occurs 3 or more weeks before your due date. It is important for you to know how to recognize signs of pre-term labor. Become familiar with this list:

  • Contractions which occur every ten minutes or less
  • Low, dull back ache below your waistline which may come and go or be constant Pressure that feels as though the baby is pushing down.
  • Stomach cramping with or without diarrhea.
  • Watery fluid from the vaginal
  • Feeling that something isn't "right".

Pain management decisions

One of the biggest choices facing expectant parents is the type of pain management they will use for labor and birth.

The physiological reasons for pain are obvious: the muscles of the uterus stretch, pull up, and thin out to created the cervical changes of effacement and dilatation. There is also discomfort from increased pressure on the pelvic bones as the baby moves down the pelvis and through the birth canal. Knowing the reasons for pain in childbirth are important to considering pain management options.

Today, you are able to choose a variety of options to cope with pain-non-pharmacological options (positioning, water, breathing, relaxation), medication, (analgesics), epidural and/or local (anesthetics) or a combination of any or all of these options. Each has a correct time, a correct dose, a correct route of administration, and a correct purpose.

Many medications have some side effects which will impact what and when you might be able to receive the medication. For example, it is usually recommended that the cervix be dilated to 4-5 centimeters, and labor well established, before receiving an epidural, so that labor does not slow down.

It is important that you consider all pain relief options-both those using medications and those without. Think about how you respond to pain now, and think about what you can do in labor to work with the pain and cope with contractions. Know the options available to you, and discuss your ideas/concerns with your labor support person and health care provider.

Be sure to practice relaxation, breathing techniques, and other labor coping techniques daily. They will not only help prepare and condition you for labor, but also prepare you for your role as a parent!

  • Try a massage/effleurage
  • Quiet music/low lights
  • Warm shower/whirlpool
  • Imagery
  • Prayer/scripture or other special verse
  • Presence of dad and other
  • Support
  • Medication
  • Concentration
  • Try breathing at different levels....
  • Cleansing breath
  • Slowly breath In-out
  • Patterned-paced-(breathing with counting or a special phrase)
  • Focus on the positive outcome (the baby!)
  • Focus on dad and other support
  • Positioning
  • Go for a walk
  • Try the squat bar
  • Get in hands/knee position
  • Lean forward
  • Side-lying
  • The lunge
  • Use a birthing ball
  • Try slow dancing
  • Try the rocking chair

Having a "goodie bag" in labor can be a real comfort. It be filled with items that bring mom physical relief during labor AND can also help both mom and dad relax during those last few hours before you become parents.

Ideas for your "goodie bag" include:

  • Sour candy or lollipops
  • A favorite CD, video or tape
  • A picture
  • A spiritual verse
  • Phone numbers to call
  • Back massager
  • Deck of cards/game
  • Change for vending
  • Camera/film/video recorder/batteries/extra tape
  • Slippers
  • Tooth brush/tooth paste for mom and dad
  • A book for helping to pass the time
  • A journal for your thoughts during labor and after the baby is born.
  • Your birth plan

Planning for hospital discharge

There are a few things you should keep in mind when it's time to be discharged from our medical center.

  • Plan in advance for a ride home from the hospital.
  • Purchase your baby's car seat in advance.
  • Select your baby's "going home" outfit and wash it in mild detergent.
  • Arrange for help at home the first few days after you are discharged from the hospital.

Notice: The information contained on this webpage is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. The Expert Knowledge Network and Saint Francis Healthcare Campus assume no responsibility for how this information is used. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider before starting any new treatment or discontinuing an existing treatment. Talk with your healthcare provider about any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Nothing contained on this page is intended to be for medical diagnosis or treatment.