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What to Expect During Labor

pregnant mom and doctorHow long does labor take?

All births are unique. An average first-time labor takes 15 to 19 hours as the uterine contractions cause the opening of the womb, the cervix, to thin out and open up. The thinning out process is called effacement, and the opening up process is called dilation. Stage I labor ends in complete dilation at ten centimeters. Stage II generally lasts from one to two hours, beginning at complete dilation and continuing until the baby is born, when you push during the contractions. Stage III begins with the birth of the baby until the delivery of the placenta, or afterbirth. It is the shortest stage, lasting only 15 to 20 minutes.

How will I know when labor starts and when it's time to go to the hospital?

It's best to follow the guidelines you and your doctor have agreed upon for coming in to have your baby. In true labor, your contractions become more regular, getting stronger and closer together. They may increase in frequency and intensity as you walk around. As labor contractions cause the cervix to soften and begin to dilate, you will have a pink, slightly bloody mucous discharge from the vagina, which is called "show". You should plan on coming in to the hospital if your water breaks. Rupture of the amniotic membranes may occur as a gush of fluid or as a trickle of water from the vagina. Always give your doctor a description of this fluid, including the color. It is usually clear but can be white or green-tinted.

Can my family visit me during labor?

We understand the importance of the support of your family and friends during your labor and birth. Family and friends are welcome to visit early in labor if you desire, but please speak with your nurse about visitors. As labor progresses, most moms prefer to have fewer visitors so that they can stay very focused on their delivery.

Considering the length of time you could be in labor you may prefer to have them wait at home and call them closer to your delivery. Waiting rooms are located on both floors of the Women's Center. If you have children with you please ask another adult to provide for their wellbeing while you're in labor. Young children under 12 years of age, except for siblings, should not visit you or your newborn nor should visitors with colds, fever or illnesses until they are symptom free.

How long will I stay in the hospital?

Your hospital stay will last from 24 to 48 hours after a vaginal delivery. If you have a cesarean section, your stay could last 3 to 4 days. In normal deliveries, your obstetrician will discharge you and a pediatrician will discharge your baby before you leave for home. It's best to have your baby's doctor picked out by the last trimester of your pregnancy. For assistance in identifying a pediatrician, call 713-222-CARE.

What about food while I'm in labor?

In labor, most women tolerate only clear liquids or ice chips. After delivery, your nurse will make plans for an appropriate meal.

Where can my family eat?

Coffee is available at the main desk or nursing pod. Café Hermann is located on the first floor of the Robertson Pavilion and is open from 6 a.m. until 2 a.m. During regular business hours there are several eating establishments within walking distance of the hospital, your nurse can give you directions to Au Bon Pain, the Rising Roll, and the Commons.

How can my labor coach support me during labor?

A labor coach knows you better than anyone and plays a very important part in helping to care for you. Coaches help through positive encouragement and by offering comfort measures. Your labor coach should plan on staying by your side to help you stay focused. Your coach can massage your hands or feet to help you relax, cheer you on, help you change position often and remind you to take one contraction at a time.

What if my baby requires special care after delivery?

All of our nurses are specially trained and prepared to meet emergencies. If your baby needs special care, outstanding neonatal intensive care is available within the hospital.

What if I have complications?

Through our affiliation with the University of Texas Medical School and a team of highly-qualified independent practitioners, we have a team of healthcare professionals available for care and support throughout your hospital stay. We are available to care for your full spectrum of healthcare needs from high-risk pregnancy care to unexpected complications.

I am scheduled for a cesarean delivery. What procedures do I follow?

It is important to follow all of your doctor's pre-operative orders and to bring copies of your prenatal records and laboratory reports with you to the hospital. Do not eat or drink anything after midnight. If you are monitoring your blood glucose levels, continue to monitor those as usual. If you take medication, ask your physician about what you should or should not take. Please arrive at the Women's Center triage area on the 5th floor of Hermann Pavilion at least two hours prior to your scheduled surgery time.

I am scheduled for a cesarean delivery. Should I shave my surgery area before I arrive?

Many pre-op patients ask this question and the answer is "no, you should not." It is important for you to bathe the night before and wash the skin thoroughly with an antibacterial soap such as Dial or with the skin cleanser Hibiclens if directed to do so by your doctor.