Preparing for Labor
When labor starts, things may happen quickly. Planning ahead can help keep you relaxed and focused. This may help make your labor go more smoothly.
Preparing for labor checklist
Here are a few ways you can plan ahead for your labor and delivery:
- Know your job’s maternity benefits and make sure all required paperwork is completed
- Find out what phone numbers to call in an emergency and whom to call when you think you’re in labor
- Figure out your driving route to the hospital, along with a backup route if there’s a delay, and where best to park your car
- Try practice driving runs from your home or workplace and consider factors such as time of day (rush hour) and weather conditions that could affect traffic
- Find out admissions procedures at your hospital
- Determine who will drive you, who will be with you at the hospital, and how best to reach them on short notice
- If you have pets or other children, plan for their care while you are away
- Make a list of phone numbers to call after the baby is born
- Install a baby seat in your car- this will be checked by the nursing staff before you leave the hospital.
- Pack a hospital bag with items you will need during labor and keep it in a handy place, along with a list of last-minute items, such as your cellphone and glasses
- Pack a larger bag for your hospital stay with things like comfortable clothing, nightgowns, reading materials, a notebook, toiletries, camera, nursing bras and nursing pads
What should I expect before labor?
Although labor may start suddenly and without warning, in most cases your body will provide one or more signs that labor is on the way. Here are a few:
False labor pains
False labor pains, also called Braxton Hicks contractions, help your body prepare for birth but do not do much to open your cervix (the lower, narrow portion of the uterus where it joins with the top of the vagina). These pains, which range from mild to painful, tend to occur during the last month or two of pregnancy, and often occur after physical activity or if you are tired or dehydrated. Unlike true labor, false labor pains are usually felt only in the front and they may change or stop when you move or rest. Also unlike true labor, false labor pains usually occur at irregular intervals. To help find out if you are in true labor or false labor, time your contractions from the start of one contraction to the start of the next. Keeping a record of the timing and intensity of your contractions can help determine if you are in false labor or true labor.
When your baby’s head drops down into your pelvis, you may feel that your baby has moved lower. This is called lightening. It may occur a few weeks to a few hours (typically for first-time mothers) before labor starts.
During pregnancy, thick mucus seals off the cervix. When the cervix starts to open, this mucus is released, resulting in a vaginal discharge that can appear clear, pink, or slightly bloody. This can occur any time from a few days before labor up to the onset of labor.
Rupture of membranes
At the start of labor or during labor, the fluid-filled sac that surrounds your baby breaks, resulting in a trickle or a gush of fluid from your vagina. This is also known as “breaking water”.
When should I call Dr. Garofalo?
If any of the following apply to you, then you should call the hospital or Dr. Garofalo:
- You think you may be in labor
- You have symptoms of labor prior to 37 weeks of pregnancy
- Your water breaks
- You have vaginal bleeding
- You have chills or fever
- You have severe and constant pain
- Your baby seems to be moving less