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What’s Your Labor IQ?

The views and opinions expressed are those of the authors and should not be considered medical advice. Always consult your doctor for the most appropriate treatment.

Learning About Labor and Delivery

If you’ve been reading up on the labor process or have been listening to your girlfriends tell their labor stories, you’re probably wondering, “What does labor pain really feel like?” and “What’s actually going to happen on the big day?” While it doesn’t hurt to keep reading up on these things, one of the most important things you can do is remember to plan for the unexpected. Here are a few other things to keep in mind:

True or False?

false No matter how many babies you’ve had or haven’t had, the pain of giving birth is different for every mom-to-be. In fact, there’s no way you can know what giving birth will feel like, nor can you predict the level of pain. A lot of women choose to deliver without any medication. But the fact is, approximately 60% of women choose to have an epidural during labor.

That said, while preparing to go through labor without pain medication is great, it’s also a good idea to be open to the possibility of needing it, even if it’s not in your birth plan. Your OB or midwife can tell you more about this. So be sure to ask him or her about your options at your next appointment.

true Your cervix naturally produces hormone-like substances that tell your body to start labor. Prior to labor, your cervix is firm and closed, almost like a door keeping your baby inside. As your due date approaches, the door (your cervix) begins to thin, soften and open (dilate). This kicks off the labor process. If your cervix is stubborn and doesn’t cooperate, you may need medical intervention to start things along. This is called induction. Your OB has a number of options available to induce labor. As your due date approaches, talk to your OB or midwife about them.

false Your water (the amniotic fluid that helps protect your baby) can break before you go into labor but, most of the time, water breaks while in labor. And if your water doesn’t break itself, your OB or midwife may have to do it for you.

So how do you know when it happens? Some moms say they never noticed while others describe anything from a trickle to a gush of fluid. In short, it’s different for everyone but, if your water breaks before you are at the hospital and you are not in labor, you should call your OB or midwife immediately to let him or her know.

true Assuming your OB or midwife has given you the “Ok,” by all means, move around and get that baby ready for delivery! You obviously don’t have to take a quick kickboxing class or run a 5k. Simply walking around, sitting on a birthing ball or even squatting changes the position of your pelvis and helps position your baby for delivery. In other words, move to get things moving.

true If you haven’t made your birth plan yet, this is a topic you’ll want to think about. Statistics show that nearly 25% of births are through induction. Some options are not FDA-approved, so talk to your OB or midwife well before your due date about this possibility and read more about induction here: Why You Might Need to Be Induced.

false You absolutely can have a vaginal delivery! When your labor is “induced,” it simply means your doctor has decided to use certain methods or medications to help kick-start your labor. These methods work to deliver a soft, thin and open (dilated) cervix that can stretch 10 centimeters so you can push your beautiful baby through.

true You absolutely have a say! That’s why it’s so important you understand the induction process and what methods can be used to start labor. Like how some options for induction are not FDA-approved for cervical ripening—which means they haven’t been proven safe and effective to FDA standards and have not been determined to have benefits that outweigh any risks.

Learn more about cervical ripening agent options below:

Dinoprostone Vaginal Insert
An FDA-approved medicated removable vaginal insert similar to a tampon that is placed by your OB or midwife.
Dinoprostone Cervical Gel
Another form of the FDA-approved medication dinoprostone. It is administered by a doctor, who will release the gel into the cervix using a syringe.
Pill (Cytotec®/misoprostol)
A medication given orally or vaginally. This option is not FDA-approved for use in cervical ripening.
Balloon Catheter
A device with a small inflatable balloon on one end. Some balloon catheters are FDA-approved.
Stripping the Membranes
A procedure performed by your OB or midwife that involves gently separating the membrane connecting the amniotic sac to the wall of the uterus. This triggers the release of prostaglandins and produces contractions.

Some options are not FDA-approved, so it’s best to speak to your OB or midwife well before your due date to discuss your options, as this will help you prepare in the event an induction is required.

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