Labor Stages | Fit Pregnancy

Labor Stages

Ready or not, here it comes

Lisa Hickey never expected to give birth in a 1993 Toyota Camry on an on-ramp to Interstate 90, but that’s what happened. Early on a July morning in 2003, Hickey, 31, of Natick, Mass., went into labor with her second child. Her husband drove her and her 22-year-old sister, who planned to watch the delivery, to the hospital in Boston. When Hickey’s doctor found she was only 4 centimeters dilated, he estimated that the baby wouldn’t arrive for a long time and sent them home.

How to Tell if You're Really in Labor

Almost every pregnant woman portrayed on television wakes up in the middle of the night and says, “It’s time!” And within 20 minutes (on a half-hour show), she delivers the baby.

The agony and the ecstasy

Most first time mom to be are naturally apprehensive and curious about labor and delivery. Concerns include: How will I know when I’m actually in labor? Will it hurt, and how much? When should I go to the hospital? Will I lose control and scream like a banshee, embarrassing everyone in the room?

Compared with the slow, quiet days of pregnancy, labor—with its minute-to-minute changes —can be both disconcerting and exhilarating. While each woman’s labor and delivery is different, we can address some of the more common questions and concerns.

What is Labor?

Upon Arrival

The first meeting of mother and child can only be described as magical. Both stranger and close confidant, your baby blinks and stares at you as though he’s surprised to finally meet you, as you are to meet him. After waiting 40 weeks for this moment, you’ll be understandably anxious for some quality time together. But your baby’s caregivers will be equally eager to make sure your child is healthy. Luckily, doctors have found a way to make everyone happy.

The Best-Laid Plan

My birth plan when I was pregnant with my son, Truman, was this: I had no plan. I knew I wanted a hospital delivery, so I selected one that had a birth center known for family friendliness and an OB-GYN with a reputation for erring on the side of safety. Beyond that, I just packed my iPod in my hospital bag, let my doctor know that I'd rather skip the C-section, thank you, and trusted that somehow the process of giving birth would take care of itself.

See Ya!

The length of a hospital stay after delivery tends to be one-size-fits-all: 48 hours for a normal vaginal birth and 96 hours for an uncomplicated Cesarean section. But a study suggests that moms should be discharged based on individual factors, not simply how long they've been in the hospital. Henry Bernstein, D.O., and colleagues at New Hampshire's Children's Hospital at Dartmouth examined the decisions to discharge more than 4,000 mothers after childbirth. They found that 17 percent of mom-baby pairs were not ready to go home.