What to Expect During Labor & Delivery

FAQs to help you through labor & delivery

Your due date is getting closer! The combination of excitement, hormones, and nerves are likely to spark a lot of questions in anticipation for your little one's arrival. Pamela Carr, Motherhood & Family Advocate, answers some of the most asked questions about the labor and delivery process.

Q: How do I know when labor begins?

A: Your body has been preparing for the very moment of “labor and delivery” since you found out you were pregnant. By the end of the pregnancy, you should see your midwife or OB/GYN every week. At these appointments, they will check your cervix to see if you are dilated. Some signs to keep an eye out are:

  1. You will see that your belly has dropped, this indicates that the baby is getting in the right position.
  2. Your cervix is dilated.
  3. Your water may or may not break. Water breaking looks different for everyone. Sometimes it is a gush and others might have a slow leak. If your water does not break, that's totally okay, too!
  4. You will feel your stomach tighten up. This is what we call a contraction. True contractions often feel like menstrual cramps. To time contractions, you want to begin timing from the start of your first contraction to the start of the next contraction.

If you feel like you're going into labor, always call your doctor to let them know or go straight to the hospital. Always trust your body and your gut feeling!

woman giving birth pushing labor & delivery
Q: What are the stages of labor?

A: There are four stages of labor:

  1. Phase one is when you start feeling contractions and your cervix begins to dilate to get ready for delivering the baby.
  2. Phase two is when the fun starts and is the most important stage—you will begin pushing and finally give birth to your baby.
  3. Phase three is when your midwife or OB/GYN helps you deliver the placenta after you've given birth.
  4. Phase four is when you create an attachment with your baby that is like no other and may choose to begin breastfeeding for the first time.
Q: What if my baby is late? How do I induce labor?

A: If your baby is late or past it's due date, don’t worry! This is completely normal. Most babies aren't born on their due date. Up to 40 weeks is called “full-term" but some pregnancies can go up to 42 weeks, often call a “post-term” pregnancy. If your pregnancy is considered “high-risk”, you may be induced as early as 37 weeks depending on the situation. The most important thing to know is only you and your doctor can make the decision on the right time to induce based on the health of mom and baby. It's important to be comfortable with your doctor and never hesitate to ask questions. No question is a “silly” question!

Q: What if I need a C-section?

A: Many moms receive C-sections for different reasons. Some are planned and some are emergent. The ultimate goal is making sure both mom and baby are safe and healthy. It's important to understand why your health care provider is needing to perform a C-section.

Q: What options are there for pain relief?

A:Pain relief looks different for every mom. Talking with your doctor/midwife, doula, or home visitor before delivery could help you learn about both holistic and medicinal pain relief options. It's important to talk to your healthcare provider about any side effect.

woman giving birth pushing labor & delivery
Q: Do I need a birth plan?

A: While it's not 100% necessary, a birth plan is a great tool. If you don't have a birth plan yet, it's okay! They can be quick and easy to make. Your birth plan doesn't need to be a formal written document, but it is important to think about how you would like your labor and delivery to go. This could just be something you share with your partner verbally. Things like, breastfeeding, pain relief, desire to move around, etc. If you are thinking about having a birth plan some things to consider would be:

  • Who do you want in the room with you? New Jersey hospitals will allow up to three people in the delivery room post-pandemic. During the Covid-19 pandemic, New Jersey hospitals will only allow your partner and a certified Doula in the room with you.
  • Do you want to have medication?
  • Get as much information needed about a C-section in case of the event you need one.
  • Any religious or spiritual traditions are allowed, just to be sure to let your nurses know.
  • Be sure to let the hospital staff know if you want to breastfeed, bottle feed, or both. They will support you in any decision you feel comfortable with.

Labor and delivery is an exciting time for moms, but don't be afraid to ask for help! Getting your questions answered ahead of time can help ease any anxiety and help you feel confident in what to expect during this exciting milestone.

Acenda Cares for Moms

Our team of Motherhood & Family Advocates provide pregnancy and child development resources for new and expectant parents from prenatal care through kindergarten. We're here to help answer your questions and provide useful pregnancy and parenting support when you need it most. Best of all, our resources and support services are completely free for all families.

For more information about our specialized pregnancy and child development services, please call 856-431-4180.