Are you getting ready for labor and delivery as a first-time mom or even as you prepare for baby number two or three?
Most of us have watched movies where a mom’s water breaks and it is an instant rush to the hospital for a speedy delivery. While this can happen to some people, it may not always be the case. Your birth story is going to be an adventure and it will be unique to you, your baby, and your family.
As an expecting mom, you may have a lot of questions about what happens from the minute you experience contractions to the moment you hold your little one in your arms.
Ease some of your worries and learn more about what you can expect during your labor and delivery process.
How do I know when it is time to head to the hospital?
Everyone experiences labor differently and there are unique guidelines to follow based on how far along you are in your pregnancy.
If you think you are having signs of labor before 37 weeks, call your doctor or visit the hospital. If you have reached 37 weeks, you should be watching for contractions to get longer, stronger, and closer together, typically about five minutes apart, before contacting your doctor or heading to the hospital.
While most people experience contractions before they go into labor, contractions that do not result in cervical change and do not increase the dilation of the cervix could be Braxton Hicks or early labor but are not considered labor contractions.
Labor contractions will take your breath away and most people find they cannot talk through them. If you think your contractions are getting longer, stronger and closer together, call your doctor or come into the hospital to get checked out.
What should my partner and I do to prepare for labor and delivery?
One of the most important things that you can do to prepare for your delivery is to communicate what your expectations, hopes and fears are to your healthcare team.
Your healthcare team can answer any questions you have to help reassure and support you during the labor process.
It is also incredibly important to share your hopes, expectations and fears with your support person. They are an integral part of your team and are there to support you, ask questions, and advocate for you and baby.
This will help reassure you that your wishes are being communicated to your healthcare team through your support person, if you cannot at any point.
How can I ensure my delivery experience is the best it can be for me?
Labor and delivery is different for every person. Some women may come in concerned about labor pain, potential difficulties with delivery or anticipating a vaginal delivery that changes to a c-section.
Labor can be overwhelming for some, but it is important to know that you have the power to make your experience your own. Moms are encouraged to ask their healthcare team to explain everything they are doing before or as they are doing it to ensure clear communication.
For example, if you are concerned about labor pain, have a clear understanding before birth to set expectations. Pain is a natural part of labor, and it serves as a signal that your body is preparing for the labor process. However, there are things you can do before you reach the hospital.
Attend birthing classes to learn about breathing techniques and positions that will allow you more comfort. Your support person can also learn these techniques and help when things start to get uncomfortable. Prenatal yoga is another practice that many moms have explored and find helpful while laboring.
This is a team effort and I encourage moms to know that this story is yours and your baby’s. It is our privilege as a part of your healthcare team to be a part of that story.
What happens after I deliver?
After you recover for a couple of hours and move to a post-partum room, you will meet with various staff members to ensure you and your baby are healthy.
While all our nurses are trained in lactation, you may also meet with a lactation specialist who will educate you about breastfeeding. The time after birth is a special time to meet and bond with your baby.
We encourage spending time skin to skin with baby, resting, recovering and getting to know your baby.
You will meet with pediatric hospitalists, specialists who are taking care of your baby, your obstetrician, and lab techs who will run tests to ensure you and your little one are healthy.
While a vaginal birth may warrant a day or two in the hospital, you can expect a three to four day stay in the hospital if you have a C-section. If you have a C-section, you might need a little more help with lifting heavy items and performing some daily tasks, like cleaning.
However, you are still able to enjoy time with your baby, bond with and breastfeed them.
After delivering, will I meet with a lactation specialist?
You will work with both your nurse and a lactation specialist, both of whom are there to help you get comfortable with breastfeeding. They are available with information about getting your baby to latch on and identifying that the baby is latched on well. You will learn how to recognize that the baby is being fed enough and educated on how often you should be feeding, how important your first milk is and how to anticipate your baby’s increased feeding needs over time.
Your healthcare team is there to provide you with resources and education needed to make your transition to home life as smooth as possible.
Is there anything I should be aware of once my baby and I go home?
While the first weeks with your newborn can be a joyful time, it can also be emotionally taxing as you adjust to a new chapter of your life. It is important to be honest with yourself, your partner and your doctor if you are struggling.
The most common struggle new moms find themselves battling within the first couple of weeks is their sleeping schedule.
Learning to let people help you find a new balance in your life is important as you do not have to do this all by yourself. So, sleep when baby sleeps and make sure to find the time to take care of yourself.
If you are struggling with breastfeeding, notice signs of depression or anxiety that is not resolving after a couple of days, or are concerned about abnormal bleeding in the weeks following birth, you should contact your doctor.
Welcome, Baby and New Mama!
While there will be a transition period as your family adjusts to life with a new addition, it is also a special time of life.
Those moments when you get to snuggle with your baby is a wonderful time.
Do not be afraid to ask for help from your partner, family, and friends if that means you are able to get to bond with your baby as you recover from and adjust to a new normal.
Do you have any other questions about labor and delivery for first time moms? Drop a comment below.
Northern Nevada Health System is a regional network of care that has elevated and improved access to healthcare for 40 years. The System operates two acute care hospitals located in Sparks and Reno, 24/7 freestanding emergency departments, a Medical Group which offers family and internal medicine, urgent care and specialty care, and Quail Surgical and Pain Management. NNHS is committed to maintaining and improving the well-being of the community and is known for top-rated patient satisfaction, in addition to providing quality care and a safe environment for patients to heal. To learn more, visit northernnevadahealth.com.