After 9 long months, the time has finally come to have a baby. The OB/GYN or midwife will provide guidance on when to head to the hospital, but many people find the 5-1-1 rule helpful. If contractions happen every 5 minutes, last for at least 1 minute, and have been happening for 1 hour, delivery is imminent. Checking into the hospital can be an overwhelming experience, but knowing what to expect once there can decrease stress. Here’s what typically happens when a woman goes into labor.
Most people will be in active labor upon arrival at this hospital. However, others may be checking in for a planned Cesarean section (C-section) or an induction of labor. Regardless, the first step is to get checked in. The front desk staff will ask for name and date of birth, and issue a wristband. Any paperwork that needs to be completed can usually be done at this time. Support people, like husbands and doulas, are generally allowed to stay with the patient the whole time but always double-check with the hospital.
Once checked in, the pregnant woman goes through a process called triage. This means a nurse will take vital signs like blood pressure and temperature. An electronic fetal monitor (EFM) will be connected to the belly to track the baby’s heart rate and monitor contractions. The nurse may also check to see how dilated the cervix is. Once active labor is confirmed, transfer from triage to a patient room occurs.
Get settled in
Most patients spend a good amount of time in the labor room, so get comfortable. A nurse will complete any necessary blood work and start an intravenous (IV) line that can be used to administer medication and fluids. Once these procedures are out of the way, the focus will turn to managing the pain from contractions. Some find that dimming the lights and turning on music can be a welcome distraction. For others, a warm shower or bouncing on a labor ball might help.
Getting the epidural
There are many ways to manage pain during labor. Opioids are a type of pain medication that can be given via IV. Inhalation of nitrous oxide can be helpful when experiencing contractions. For many women, an epidural is the best choice. If requested, an anesthesiologist will inject an anesthetic into the epidural space around the spine. Once complete, women will experience numbness in the lower body and immediate pain relief.
Getting to 9
Dilation is a measurement of how open the cervix is. When a woman reaches 9cm dilated the baby is ready to be delivered. A lot may happen quickly at this stage. The doctor and support staff will enter the room. When a contraction happens, the patient will be asked to push. This stage typically takes 1-2 hours. Soon enough, the baby will be out and placed on the mother’s chest. Labor can be exhausting, but once the baby is delivered the mom is typically given uninterrupted time to bond with the baby and initiate breastfeeding if desired.
What to expect
From check-in to delivery, each patient’s experience at the hospital will be unique. The doctor and nurses are there to help and can answer any questions that come up during the hospital stay. However, knowing what to expect can make the process go much smoother.