Prenatal care will track the health of mother and baby throughout the pregnancy. It can help to identify possible problems. A support person should be chosen to help during labor and delivery. A birth plan may be made to help communicate to birth team. A childbirth class may also be helpful.
Talk to your doctor about:
Ways to contact them after hours and when you should call
Steps to take when in labor
Pain relief, if any, during labor
Perineal massage—The perineum is the area between the anus and the vagina. Massaging it through pregnancy may help to reduce your chance of trauma to that area.
Be aware of the signs of labor, which include:
Slight vaginal bleeding
True Versus False Labor
False labor is irregular contractions of the uterus. It is often called Braxton Hicks contractions. They are normal but can be painful. They are usually also felt in the stomach and not the back.
Timing the contractions is a good way to tell the difference between true and false labor.
Note how long it is from the start of one contraction to the start of the next. Keep a record for an hour. The length of time between true labor contractions will start to decrease. The contractions will also become longer and stronger and may be felt in your back.
At first the uterus will begin to contract and move the baby down the birth canal.
The cervix will slowly enlarge to a diameter of about 10 centimeters. This will allow the baby to pass through and be delivered.
This process usually takes a while. Labor can be quicker if this is not the first child.
may be help in early stages. Some women do not require any other pain control.
There are many medical options for pain control.
All treatments to relieve pain during labor have risks and benefits. Make sure you discuss these options with your doctor:
Pain medicine by IV or muscle injection:
Given when contractions become stronger and more painful
The cervix will be checked at regular periods. A nurse will prepare you when the cervix is fully opened and the baby is moving down the birth canal. Your legs may be draped with cloths. Some doctors will clean the area around the vagina with an antiseptic solution. The doctor will tell you to push every time there is a contraction.
Legs may be placed into holders. The nurses and your support people may hold your legs in a comfortable position. This will help you to push. Your doctor may encourage you to find a position that is right for you.
You may be asked to slow pushing when the baby's head is seen at the opening to the vagina. The doctor may massage the perineum to gently stretch it to assist birth.
Once your baby's head is out, you will be asked to stop pushing. The doctor will check to make sure that the umbilical cord is not around the baby's neck. Then, you will be able to push the baby out fully. If the baby appears healthy and is breathing well, the baby may be placed on your stomach or chest. The umbilical cord will be clamped and cut. Within the next 20 minutes, the placenta will be delivered.
Right after birth, your baby may be placed on your belly or chest. This skin-to-skin contact may lead to improved breastfeeding success. Some may begin to feed immediately, others will wait.
You may need stitches if your perineum is cut or torn. The vaginal area, perineum, and rectum will be cleansed. The belly may be massaged to help the uterus clamp down and stop bleeding. Other steps may include:
An ice pack will be placed on the perineum. It will help to soothe the area and decrease swelling.
You may be given a shot of oxytocin to help decrease bleeding.
Having a baby will change you physically and emotionally.
Physically, you might have the following:
Sore breasts—Milk coming in can cause pain in the breast. Nipples may also be sore.
Constipation—You may not be able to move your bowels right away after delivery.
Stitches may make it painful to sit or walk.
Hemorrhoids—Common after giving birth. They may make it painful for you to move your bowels.
Hot and cold flashes—This is due to your body trying to adjust to the change in hormones and blood flow levels.
or fecal incontinence—Pelvic muscles may need some recovery after birth. This may cause problems with control of urine and bowel movements for a short time.
After pains—The shrinking of your uterus can cause contractions. These can worsen when your baby nurses or with some medicine. It is normal to have this after delivery.
Vaginal discharge—This is heavier than your period and often has large clots. The discharge gradually fades to white or yellow and stops within 2 months.
Weight—Your postpartum weight will probably be about 10 pounds below your full-term weight. Water weight drops off within the first week as your body regains its salt balance.
Emotionally, you may be feeling:
"Baby blues"—About 80% of new moms have irritability, sadness, crying, or
anxiety. This begins within days or weeks of giving birth. These feelings can result from hormonal changes, exhaustion, unexpected birth experiences, adjustments to changing roles, and a sense of lack of control over your new life.
(PPD)—This condition is more serious and happens in 10% to 20% of new moms. It may cause mood swings, anxiety, guilt, and persistent sadness. Your baby may be several months old before PPD develops. It is more common in women with a family history of depression.
Postpartum psychosis—Postpartum psychosis is a rare but severe condition. Symptoms include difficulty thinking and thoughts of harming the baby. If you feel this way, call your doctor right away.
Sexual relations—You may not feel physically or emotionally ready for sex right away. In most cases, you will feel more interested in sex in a few weeks.
Ways to Take Care of Yourself
When your baby sleeps, take a nap.
Set aside time each day to relax with a book or listen to music.
Ask your doctor about when it is safe to shower, bathe, or soak in water.
Get plenty of exercise and fresh air.
Schedule regular time for you and your partner to be alone and talk.
Make time each day to enjoy your baby. Encourage your partner to do so, too.
Breastfeeding is encouraged unless your doctor tells you otherwise
Clean less and have easier meals. Take a break from having visitors if you feel stressed.
Last reviewed September 2020 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board
Mary-Beth Seymour, RN Last Updated: 10/16/2020
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