Labor & Delivery: What to Expect
Finally, after months of waiting and planning your big moment is here. When labor begins, call your healthcare provider. Your provider will tell you when it's time to come to UPMC where we'll be waiting to support you, and your family members/coaches, through every stage of the process.
Whom you choose to have on hand as you welcome your new baby is a big decision, and we feel it is yours to make. Up to three coaches are allowed in the room with you in addition to your midwife and labor nurse. If you wish for complete support, your nurse will stay with you throughout the process. If you wish for more privacy, she will come and go as you wish.
How Do I Know When It's Time?
For first-time mothers, the signs and stages of labor are most likely unfamiliar to you. Labor will begin with contractions (muscle spasms of the uterus that help the baby move). They will typically come anywhere from five to 20 minutes apart, consistently at first.
During the few days before you actually go into labor, you may have a small amount of mucus/bloody discharge, a common sign that labor is near. The best time to contact your midwife is when your water first breaks (the fluid-filled sac protecting your baby in the womb). Many women will go into labor within 24 hours of the water breaking.
Feeling contraction-like cramps a few weeks before your due date? This is known as Braxton Hicks contractions and they are typical in many mothers. Unlike labor contractions, the pain is concentrated in the front of your body and will not get stronger or occur at shorter increments over time. You may be able to lessen the pain by walking or resting.
What Should I Bring?
You should pack a bag for the hospital a few weeks before your due date. This will allow you to remain calm and get to the hospital safely when labor begins. Here's a list of items you may want to bring:
- Your insurance card and preregistration
- Address book with key contacts
- Clothes, including a nightgown, robe or slippers
- Toiletries, such as a toothbrush
- Books, magazines, music or whatever may relax you
- Clothes for baby
- Car seat (preferably already installed)
When You Arrive at UPMC
- When you first arrive you will be asked for a urine sample and you will be put on a fetal monitor. Rest assured this is nothing to worry about. It’s all part of the normal process of bringing a healthy baby into the world.
- If you are truly in labor, you will be taken to your delivery room where you will be given a vaginal exam to check your cervix for dilation and effacement.
- After that, you will most likely be free to walk around or lie back and relax if that’s what you prefer. Your goal at this point is to stay comfortable.
The Early Stages
There's really no way to know in advance how long your labor will last, because it varies for each woman. The early stage of labor is often referred to as "latent." During this stage, your contractions will be anywhere from five to 20 minutes apart and your cervix opens up to three or four centimeters.
You will be admitted to a private room and encouraged to walk around, rock on a birthing ball, or simply recline in bed, watching your flat screen television or listening to music. The choice is completely yours. Our goal is to keep you as relaxed and comfortable as possible. Meet our dedicated team of obstetricians who are here to put your mind at ease during your labor.
As Labor Progresses
You are now in the "active" stage of labor. You will most likely experience severe contractions three to four minutes apart and your cervix will open up to four to seven centimeters. You may be starting to think about pain management. Your healthcare provider or labor nurse will be there for you to help develop a plan.
Intrathecal administration of pain management medication is available upon request. If you prefer a natural approach, you can also opt for therapeutic breathing, physical and mental relaxation exercises and massage.
Our skilled doctors at UPMC offer excellent care during labor in Williamsport and Wellsboro, PA, and the surrounding areas.