Labor and Delivery
Knowing what to expect can make it easier for you to relax and focus on your baby’s arrival when the time comes. Our doctors and midwives have years of experience and we will do everything possible to help make your labor and delivery the best experience possible for you and your baby.
We provide labor and delivery care at Bristol Hospital, Bristol, CT.
How to tell when labor begins
Most women give birth between 38 and 42 weeks of pregnancy, within two weeks before or after their expected due date. However, there is no way to predict exactly when labor will begin. While most women can tell when they are in labor, it’s sometimes difficult to be sure. Following are a few signs that you are approaching labor:
- Lightening is the sensation you may feel when the baby drops lower in your abdomen. It can occur a few weeks to a few hours before labor begins.
- Show. When the cervix begins to dilate, a thick mucus plug is pushed into the vagina. This can occur several days before labor begins or at the onset of labor.
- Rupture of membranes (when your “water breaks”) is when the fluid-filled sac that surrounded the baby during pregnancy breaks and watery fluid trickles or gushes from your vagina. This can occur from several hours before labor begins to any time during labor.
- Contractions are a regular pattern of cramps that occur when your uterus tightens then relaxes. True contractions last about 30-70 seconds each, and they increase in intensity as time goes on. Contractions usually occur at the onset of labor and do not stop until shortly after birth. (Contractions that do not have these characteristics are known as Braxton Hicks contractions, or false labor.)
You should call our office if any of the following occur:
- if painful contractions occur every 3-4 minutes for over an hour
- if your water breaks
- if you are experiencing vaginal bleeding other than bloody mucus
- if you feel severe, constant pain with no relief between contractions
- if you notice the baby is moving less often
Sometimes medications or other methods are used to bring on, or “induce”, the contractions that occur during labor. Induction is sometimes performed if there are complications or when the health of the mother or the baby is at risk. Labor is induced in about 20% of pregnant women in the United States.
Labor can be induced in several ways:
- Stripping membranes is done with a pelvic exam and simply described is the sliding of a finger between the amniotic sac and the wall of the uterus in order to release the natural prostaglandins that may start up labor. This procedure is done by your doctor or midwife, using a gloved finger. Possible side effects include cramping and spotting.
- Breaking your water, or making a small hole in your amniotic sac, can also get contractions to start. This is a simple procedure, but it may cause discomfort,
- Oxytocin is a hormone that causes contractions. It is injected into the bloodstream through an intravenous (IV) tube in your arm. Other agents used are Prostaglandins such as Cervidil and Misoprostol
Fetal heart rate monitoring during labor
To check how your baby is doing during labor and delivery, his or her heart rate can be monitored with special equipment. This is known as fetal heart rate monitoring. This monitoring can be done in several ways, both internal and external, depending on the circumstances of your labor.
Fetal monitoring cannot prevent a problem from occurring, but it can alert your physicians to warning signs and allow them to take steps to help the baby. These steps may consist of something as simple as changing your position. In more serious cases, medications may be given to weaken contractions, or the baby may be delivered right away, via cesarean delivery.
Pain relief during labor and delivery
It’s important to remember that no two labors are the same: Some women require little or no pain relief, while others find that pain relief gives them better control. There are many options available for pain relief. Some women are able to prevent or manage pain by using breathing and relaxation techniques taught in childbirth class. Bristol Hospital Childbirth Classes – bristol classes link broken
Our patients have benefited from relaxation techniques such as
In some cases, women are given analgesics (which reduce pain) or anesthetics (which block pain and other sensations).
Many women plan their pain management before delivery, and we can help with this. However, unforeseen events during labor can result in changes to pain relief plans.
A cesarean birth, or “c-section”, is when a baby is delivered through surgical cuts made in the abdomen and uterus. In some cases, complications during pregnancy or labor make a cesarean delivery necessary. In these cases, the decision to have a cesarean delivery can be made ahead of time or at the last minute, during delivery.
Cesarean delivery is major surgery, but it is also very common: cesarean deliveries are the most common surgery performed in the United States, and more than 30% of all U.S. childbirths are via c-section. Cesarean births are considered very safe, but there are risks and disadvantages, including infection, blood loss, and a longer hospital stay and recovery time. Our doctors have extensive experience with both natural and cesarean delivery.
Vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC) delivery
It’s possible for many women who have had a cesarean delivery to have a vaginal delivery. Our practitioners will discuss the risks and benefits of VBAC versus a repeat cesarean section with you, and help you make an informed and appropriate decision for your delivery.