Labor & Delivery – General Information

Most women deliver their babies vaginally. However, approximately 25-30% of pregnant women in the United States deliver by Cesarean Section, so it is important to be prepared for each route.

When you are admitted to the hospital for labor, your contractions and the babyʼs heart rate are monitored. A small device is attached to your belly by an elastic waistband, which is then connected to a bedside machine by a long cord. You are able to move around and if the baby is looking good, you can even come off the machine for short periods of time. If you would like pain medication, you have the choice of either IV medication or an epidural. IV medicine will not completely take the pain away but decreases the intensity and will also make you sleepy. It does not last very long, so may need to be re-administered. It also should not be given too close to time of delivery. An epidural is medicine placed through a catheter that goes into your back. This is the most popular choice for pain relief. The pain medicine can be continuously infused so it will last throughout labor, delivery and for any repair that is necessary after the baby is born. The most common side effect of an epidural is a spinal headache that occurs less than 1% of the time and usually resolves within 24 hours.

Once your cervix has completely dilated, you are now ready to begin pushing. If this is your first baby, it is not uncommon for the pushing to take 1-2 hours, sometimes even three. Your doctor may decide that an episiotomy (cut in the vagina to allow more room) may be necessary. This is not done routinely.

When the baby has completely delivered, the cord will be clamped and may be cut by the father of the baby. If the baby is doing well, he or she will be placed on your abdomen. If you have any tears or an episiotomy that needs to be repaired, it is then performed while you are examining your new baby.

Problems may occur during labor which may result in your physician recommending a Cesarean section. This is performed for many reasons, such as: previous c-section, failure of the cervix to dilate fully, arrest of descent of the babyʼs head, malpresentation of the baby (e.g. Breech), or compromise of the mother or baby (e.g. decelerations of the babyʼs heart rate). Usually, the c-section is performed while you are awake, under epidural or spinal anesthesia. A catheter will also be placed in your bladder to keep it empty so it does not get in the way of the operating field. Usually a bikini incision is made in your abdomen. The baby is then delivered within minutes. You will be able to see the baby right away. After surgery, you may consume solid foods, as long as you are not nauseated. The catheter in your bladder will be removed the day after surgery. You will be kept comfortable with pain medication as needed. Most women go home from the hospital after two days.

Now is when the challenging part begins – raising your beautiful child for the next 18 years. Congratulations!