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Labor and Delivery - Planning for Birth

What to expect at the hospital

You may feel more calm and prepared for labor if you know what is likely to happen when you get to the hospital.

Most hospitals and birthing centers have birthing rooms where women can labor, deliver, and recover. Providing that you have an uncomplicated birth, you can probably be in the same birthing room for your entire stay. If your delivery becomes complicated, you can be quickly moved to a delivery room equipped to handle the problem.

If you arrive at the hospital or birthing center in early labor that is progressing quickly, you can expect some or all of the following:

  • Your blood pressure, pulse, and temperature will be checked.
  • You will be asked about the timing and strength of your contractions and whether your water has broken (your membranes have ruptured).
  • Electronic fetal heart monitoring will be used to record the fetal heart rate as you have contractions. Fetal heart rate shows whether the baby is doing well or is in trouble.
  • You will have sterile vaginal exams to check whether your cervix is thinning and opening (effacing and dilating).
  • You may have an intravenous (IV) needle inserted, in case you need extra fluids or medicine later on.
  • You may be encouraged to walk. Walking helps many women feel more comfortable during early labor.

Newborn care decisions

Before your baby is born, plan ahead about:

  • Keeping your baby with you for at least 1 hour after birth, for bonding. (Many hospitals allow rooming-in, with no mother-baby separation during the entire hospital stay.)
  • Preventing breast-feeding problems. You can plan ahead for breast-feeding support in case you need it. Check around for a lactation consultant. Some hospitals have them in-house. You can also make sure that hospital staff knows not to give your baby supplemental formula, unless there is a medical need.
  • Delaying certain procedures—such as a vitamin K injection, a heel prick for a blood test, and the use of eye medicines—so that you have more time to bond with your baby in the hours after birth.
  • Whether and when you'd like visitors, including children in your family.
  • Whether to bank your baby's umbilical cord blood after the birth. (This requires advance planning early in your pregnancy.)
Breast-Feeding: Should I Breast-Feed My Baby?
Pregnancy: Should I Bank My Baby's Umbilical Cord Blood?

This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 12, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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