Labor and Delivery
The birth of a child is a life-changing event – and requires a lot of hard work. But it’s a natural process that your body was designed to do with an amazing result at the end. At Waterbury Hospital’s Family Birthing Center, we want to make your birth experience as rewarding and comfortable as possible. Our labor and delivery specialists will work together to ensure the wellness and safety of you and your precious baby.
After months of anticipation, we understand that families want to be as prepared as possible when the big day finally arrives. Below is a comprehensive guide for what to expect during labor, delivery, and recovery.
What to Bring
We recommend packing for your hospital stay at least two weeks before your scheduled delivery. You may bring items from home to make your stay comfortable, such as a nightgown, robe, slippers, and pillows. Most women also bring toiletries like a toothbrush, toothpaste, mouthwash, lotion, and lip balm. For when it’s time to go home, you’ll need clothes for yourself and your baby, as well as receiving blankets and a car seat.
When to Come to the Hospital
Labor can start as early as three weeks before or two weeks after your due date. This is common and normal – however, if you’re feeling signs of labor before 37 weeks of pregnancy, call your doctor or midwife immediately.
Early labor can last for days, so you want to wait to come to the hospital until you’re in active labor. Active labor happens when your contractions become stronger, closer together, and regular. During this stage, they typically last between 45 to 60 seconds with three to five minutes of rest in between. At this point, you should call your doctor and head over to the hospital.
What Happens When You Arrive
Once you get to the hospital, you’ll be led to a birthing room. All birthing rooms at Waterbury Hospital are private and have their own bathroom, bedside table, dining table, and free cable TV. You’ll be hooked up to our advanced monitoring systems, which allow you to walk around during labor and use movement like rocking or swaying to manage pain.
Support people such as your partner, family members, and close friends – limited to three individuals – are allowed to be in the room with you during labor and delivery. They are encouraged to provide you with physical and emotional support. Your care will be provided by your OB/GYN provider, OB/GYN residents, and labor and delivery nurses.
Nutrition During Labor
At home during early labor, you should eat easily digestible foods such as pasta, rice, crackers, toast, or soup. Your digestion slows down during active labor, so it’s better to avoid meat, dairy, and protein.
At the hospital during active labor, you’ll be limited to ice pops, clear liquids, and ice chips. After anesthesia, you may still have these items at your doctor’s discretion. An intravenous (IV) site may also be placed at the time of obtaining routine blood to administer pain medications and fluids to avoid dehydration, or in case of an emergency.
Labor can be painful, but in addition to taking medication, there are several natural ways to help manage the pain.
- Moving your body by walking or rocking in response to contractions can decrease pain and facilitate labor.
- Position changes like squatting, sitting up, or lying on your side in bed improves your overall comfort and circulation.
- Taking a shower during labor with warm water helps to relax you.
- An ice or heat pack against the back or lower abdomen can alleviate pain or tension.
- Frequent trips to the bathroom are encouraged, since an empty bladder may make contractions feel less painful. It will also allow your baby’s head to drop lower into your pelvis.
- Room lighting can be dimmed during labor and delivery as a way to soothe and promote relaxation.
- Concentrated relaxation or patterned breathing methods help you concentrate and relax during contractions. These techniques may be learned during childbirth preparation and should be practiced with your partner regularly.
- Massaging the arms, legs, shoulders, and back by your partner or self can relax tense muscles. Light, circular massage to your abdomen, a technique called effleurage, may also be helpful.
- Other strategies include focusing on a special photo or object, listening to music, and receiving a massage.
Medical Pain Management
An epidural is the most common form of pain relief during labor in the United States. Epidural anesthesia is given through a small catheter (tube) threaded through a guiding needle. It is placed in your lower back by an anesthesiologist. Epidural anesthesia relieves pain from the waist down.
This type of anesthesia can be given throughout labor and adjusted for your pain management needs. An epidural may slow your labor if given too early or may interfere with your urge to push. You will remain in bed after the epidural is in place, and your bladder may need to be emptied using a catheter.
While an epidural may be adequate if a Cesarean section is necessary, another option is spinal anesthesia. Spinal anesthesia is given by an anesthesiologist through an injection in the lower back. It usually lasts for about an hour.
Lastly, pain medications can be administered through your IV. They reduce or dull the pain of contractions and help you cope with labor, but may temporarily make you and your baby feel drowsy.
Monitoring You and Your Baby
Monitoring can be performed outside the body (external) or inside the body (internal). External monitoring is more common and can be continuous or intermittent. A monitor is placed on your abdomen to detect your baby’s heartbeat and your contractions. Low-risk pregnancies may have intermittent monitoring, which means the vitals are checked only at set times during labor. High-risk pregnancies, however, would benefit from continuous monitoring. You may want to ask about a telemetry unit, which allows you to be monitored while out of bed or walking.
Internal monitoring is used for babies during high-risk births or when accurate measurements can’t be performed with external monitoring. A fetal monitor is inserted through the cervix and placed on your baby’s scalp for continuous tracing of your baby’s heartbeat. In addition, a uterine monitor is placed inside the uterus for continuous tracing of your contractions. Internal uterine monitoring may be used after your water has broken for a more accurate measurement of contractile strength. It could also be used if you’ve had a previous Cesarean birth, or if labor is not progressing.
Ways to Enhance Labor
There are several ways to speed up a labor that is not progressing or stalled in the first stage.
- Walking increases the body’s circulation of the hormone oxytocin, which may help increase the strength and frequency of contractions.
- Being upright allows gravity to work with you in bringing the baby down into the birth canal.
- Artificial rupture of membranes to break your water may be used to speed up or induce labor.
- Pitocin, administered through your IV, is a synthetic form of the hormone oxytocin that causes uterine contractions. It increases the strength of frequency of contractions if labor is not progressing.
- Prostaglandins are compounds in the body made of fats that have hormone-like effects. They are responsible for creating uterine contractions, so the administration of these medications can prepare the cervix for induction of labor.
Finally, your baby has come into this world, and all your efforts have paid off. Savor this special time after delivery by bonding with your new child.
Right off the bat, maintaining skin-to-skin contact is one of the best things you can do. It helps babies regulate their body temperature and feel soothed as they transition from the womb. Scientific studies have shown that skin-to-skin contact also increases the baby’s blood oxygen levels, promotes deeper and more restful sleep, and helps initiate breastfeeding. Skin-to-skin is important during the first few weeks of life, and you’ll be encouraged to practice it frequently throughout your stay.
In addition, your baby will stay in the same room with you after delivery. Rooming-in, as it is called, will allow you and your partner to learn your baby’s needs. Our staff will be there to support you both while you learn how to care for your baby.
Along with a daily visit from your OB/GYN, our nursing staff will monitor you throughout your stay. We’ll make regular assessments of your vital signs, uterus, any bleeding or pain, and medications. Our lactation consultants will also visit you after delivery to help establish a milk supply, ensure latching occurs, and assist with positioning. They are available to answer any questions you may have about breastfeeding and what to expect when you return home.
Transitioning to Home
Before delivery, you and your partner should choose a pediatrician. We will contact your pediatrician during delivery so they can visit you and your baby during your hospital stay. If the provider does not have credentials to practice at Waterbury Hospital, one of our neonatologists from Yale New Haven Hospital will attend to you and your baby.
With the new addition to your family comes paperwork. You’ll need the birth certificate, social security, and paternity paperwork before heading home. Our clerical staff will assist you with any questions you may have about completing the necessary documents.
You’ll need to show proof of a car seat prior to taking your baby home from Waterbury Hospital. We are unable to install the car seat base for you or put your baby in the car seat. However, we can provide some helpful tips. For car seat base installation, please reach out to your local police department a month or two before your due date.
For more information about our labor and delivery services or to make an appointment, please call (203) 573-7697.