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Labor

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Amniotic fluid that has a foul odor or is yellow or green indicates infection or the presence of meconium, or ''little baby poop." If babies get stressed, they will have a bowel movement. This will require close evaluation of the baby during labor and thorough attention to protecting the baby from breathing the amniotic fluid into the lungs during the birth. The care providers for you and your baby will suction the baby's mouth, nose, and throat before stimulating the baby to cry and breathe.

Contractions will begin slowly with the hardening or balling up of your uterus. You can feel the strength of the contractions by placing your hand on the top of your belly. The pain will come from the back, down around to the front of your belly, and just above the pubic bone.

If your water does not break but your contractions begin to come more frequently over a few hours, it may be a good idea to call your care provider and describe what's happening. At this point, if it is during office hours, your care provider may have you come in to check your cervix for dilation. If contractions begin after office hours, you may be asked to go to the hospital and have a doctor or a nurse check your cervix. He or she will also check your blood pressure, pulse, respiration, and temperature. Usually, you will be asked to lie down so that they can evaluate the baby's heart rate and your contractions with a fetal monitor, which gives a constant reading of the baby's heart rate. It traces the heart rate onto a strip of paper. The people caring for you in the hospital will evaluate the readout of the baby's heart rate pattern, as these patterns can provide some indication of how the baby is doing at a given point. The fetal monitor cannot tell everything, but it can tell how your baby is tolerating labor, whether or not the placenta is working well, and if the umbilical cord is getting pressed. If there has been no change in your cervix, they will probably have you walk around for a couple of hours and then recheck your cervix. If there still has been no change, they may even send you home for a while. Don't get discouraged if this happens -- many women make several trips to the hospital before the real thing; the excitement of going into the hospital stops the contractions, or getting to the hospital and rehydrating with fluids stops them. Labor is an "all or nothing" game. All the pieces need to be in place before it will actually happen.

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