Labor and Delivery FAQs:


Do I need to take a birthing class?
What should I take to the hospital?
When will I know it's time to go to the hospital?
Are showering and bathing allowed during labor?
Are eating and drinking allowed?
How many people are allowed to be with me during labor and delivery?
What is a birth plan and do I need one?
How long do I stay in the hospital?
What is the average length of labor?
What is a doula?
What if I’m seeing a midwife and I need a cesarean birth?


Do I need to take a birthing class?

No, you don’t need to but the majority of first time parents find them extremely beneficial.  Many men enjoy talking to other expectant fathers at a childbirth class.
In classes you will:

  • Learn how to make pregnancy more comfortable.
  • Get answers to common questions and information about concerns.
  • Learn about prenatal development.
  • Learn about danger signals in pregnancy.
  • Learn about pregnancy and how your life is affected.
  • Learn about premature labor and how to prevent it.
  • Learn how to involve your family in your pregnancy and birth.
  • Learn good communication skills and birth plans.
  • Learn how to tell if this is labor.
  • Learn about support options.
  • Learn what to expect during labor
  • Learn about pain relief options
  • Learn about caring for your new baby.
  • Learn about the benefits of breastfeeding and how to get started.
  • Learn infant stimulation and development techniques.

What should I take to the hospital?

The hospital supplies you with a gown, basic toiletries, peri pads, clothing and diapers for the baby when he/she is in the hospital.

You will need to bring: Robe ,slippers, extra pillow, music, chap stick, change for vending machine, camera, phones numbers, breath mints, books, outfit to go home in for you and your baby.

When will I know it’s time to go to the hospital?

For first time mothers, most doctors and midwives want you to contact them "when your contractions are five minutes apart and lasting 60 seconds and you have had this activity for about an hour." They say that "real" (vs. "practice" or "Braxton-Hicks") contractions get longer, stronger, and closer together over time; do not go away when walking or lying down; and begin in the back and move to the front of your uterus.

You shouldn't consider yourself to be in active labor until you can't talk through your contractions. Some mothers prefer to labor in the relative freedom and comfort of their home until this stage has been reached, but all doctors and midwives will have different opinions so you should always consult with them first.

If your water breaks ( either a large gush or a steady trickle, if you have bleeding more than a period, you should contact your provider immediately to let them know what is going on.

You should always contact your provider before you go to the hospital so they can call labor and delivery and let them know you are coming in.

Are showering and bathing allowed during labor?

If you have an uncomplicated pregnancy and labor, showering and bathing are oftentimes beneficial in helping you to relax in labor and are usually allowed.

Are eating and drinking allowed?

Check with your provider regarding this issue.  Usually in early labor it is recommended to keep well hydrated and to eat lightly.  Labor is hard work and in order for labor to progress efficiently, you need to be well rested, well hydrated, and well fed.  As labor progresses you will probably not want to eat much but it is helpful to drink fluids if everything is going well.

How many people are allowed to be with me during labor and delivery?

Hospital policy says that you are allowed to have two people with you in labor.  This should be the same two people throughout labor and not keep changing.  Birth is a private affair.  Often times women who have too many visitors end up “entertaining“ her company and this could actually prevent her from dilating efficiently, cause her contractions to become ineffective, or stop entirely.  Remember, this is your birth.  If someone wants to be there and you are not comfortable with them, do not have them come.  There is a nice waiting area for families and they can always visit once the baby is born if you wish.

What is a birth plan and do I need one?

A birth plan is a contract describing how you would like your birth to be.  There are different opinions in  lay and professional groups regarding the value of these.  Some believe they actually hinder the progress of labor because it reflects that a woman is trying to “control” her labor.  Labor is unpredictable and you need to have an open attitude regarding the various options which are available to you. 

For example, you might be planning a labor epidural, but once you go into labor you might find that walking, Jacuzzi, sitting on the birth ball are all that you need to do to have your baby.  It is however important to talk to your provider regarding their philosophy of birth and to communicate with them before you have your baby any strong feelings you have about how you want the birth to be.

Some questions women ask are:  Are you allowed to walk  during labor, do they perform routine episiotomy, do they induce at a certain point, how often they like you to be monitored, what position will you deliver in and what type of pain management is available.  The best advice for someone going into labor is to be flexible about their plans, don’t try to intellectualize what is happening, not look at the clock, and trust birth………

How long do I stay in the hospital?

For a vaginal delivery the average stay is 48 hours.  For a cesarean birth, the average stay is 72 hours.  If you have lots of support at home, it is possible to go home after 24 hours if you feel you can get more rest at home.

What is the average length of labor?

This varies from person to person.  For a first time mother, the average length of active labor is about 12 hours.  You might have irregular cramping, backache, pressure, increased discharge for several days before you actually go into labor.  You should ignore all of this early stuff.  True labor starts when the contractions are 5 minutes apart for an hour, and no matter what you do they keep getting closer and stronger.  Average pushing for a first time mother is about 1-2 hours, maybe 3 hours with a labor epidural.

What is a doula?

A doula provides:

  • explanations of medical procedures
  • emotional support
  • advice during pregnancy
  • exercise and physical suggestions to make pregnancy more comfortable
  • help with preparation of a birth plan
  • massage and other non-pharmacological pain relief measures
  • positioning suggestions during labor and birth
  • helps support the partner so that they can love and encourage the laboring woman
  • avoid unnecessary interventions
  • help with breastfeeding preparation and beginnings,
  • written record of the birth
  • many other possibilities that vary from doula to doula

What if I'm seeing a midwife and I need a cesarean birth?

There are always physicians on call with the midwives. If something develops during your labor and a decision for cesarean is made, your midwife would be there to assist you in getting prepared. Physicians are only minutes away and available immediately.

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