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The Birth & the Hospital

Your big day is finally here! With so much to do and so little time to do them, we’ve put together some helpful checklists, must-haves and quintessential essentials to make your trip to and from the hospital as smooth as possible.


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What Makes A Delivery Go Well

See why these women’s birth days went so right—and pick from their tips to help make your own labor less...laborious.

Tune out. 

"When I delivered my twins, I brought an iPod loaded with my favorite songs, everything from indie rock to Johnny Cash hymns. Best decision ever. It was like bringing my best friends into the delivery room to comfort me like only they knew how."

—Angela V., mom of four, Los Angeles, CA

Take a breather—lots of them.

"I took prenatal yoga, and that allowed me to have a very successful delivery. I was skeptical at first but through relaxing and deep breathing I was able to work my way through each contraction without letting the pain make my body too tense to do its job. Using these techniques, I had three labors that were drug- and intervention-free."
—Jackie K., mom of three, Olivia, Minnesota

Cool off quick.

"Ask for an ice pack to put in your underwear immediately after delivery to reduce swelling and pain. I didn’t get to use this technique myself because I had a C-section, but I have prescribed it to thousands of patients, and it helps!"
—Dr. Jennifer Gunter, M.D., author of The Preemie Primer

Hit the shower.

"I tell everyone I know to take a warm shower during labor. I’ve done it myself through three natural deliveries. It helps you to relax and feels wonderful."

—Katie B., mom of three, Clarksville, Tennessee

Sit up.

"After I had an epidural, my nurses adjusted the bed so I was sitting completely upright with my legs down on a little stool. The nurses explained that this would allow gravity to help with the labor. I went from six centimeters to ‘We can see the head’ in about an hour and a half. I guess mom was right when she told me to sit up straight!"
—Mindy A., mom of two, New Orleans, Louisiana

Get to know the team.

"The practice I attended made sure to introduce me to everyone on the staff through the course of my pregnancy, down to the nurses. When I arrived for my delivery, the on-call nurse was one that I’d already met. That made it so much easier and more comforting. If your doctor’s office doesn’t do these meet and greets, ask them to."
—Darneisha C., mom of one, Washington D.C.


Stages of Labor: It's Time!


  By Mayo Clinic Staff, Mayo Clinic

Every woman's labor is unique, even from one pregnancy to the next. In some cases, labor is over in a matter of hours. In other cases, labor tests a mother's physical and emotional stamina.

You won't know how your labor will unfold until it happens. You can prepare, however, by understanding the typical sequence of events.

Stage 1: Early labor and active labor

The first stage of labor occurs when the cervix opens (dilates) and thins out (effaces) to allow the baby to move into the birth canal. This is the longest of the three stages of labor. It's actually divided into two phases of its own - early labor and active labor.

Early labor 
During early labor, your cervix will begin to dilate. You'll feel mild contractions during early labor. They will typically last 30 to 90 seconds and come at regular intervals. Near the end of early labor, your contractions will likely be less than five minutes apart.

As your cervix begins to open, you might notice a brown or blood-tinged discharge from your vagina. This is likely the mucus plug that blocks the cervical opening, also known as bloody show.

How long it lasts: Early labor is unpredictable. For first-time moms, the average length of early labor is six to 12 hours. It's often much shorter for subsequent deliveries.

What you can do: Until your contractions increase in frequency and intensity, it's up to you. For many women, early labor isn't particularly uncomfortable. You might feel like doing household chores, taking a walk or watching a movie - or you might simply continue your daily activities.

To promote comfort during early labor:

  • - Take a shower or bath
  • - Listen to relaxing music
  • - Have a gentle massage
  • - Try slow, deep breathing or relaxation techniques taught in childbirth class
  • - Change positions
  • - Drink fluids
  • - Eat light, healthy snacks
  • - Apply ice packs or heat to your lower back

Active labor 
Now it's time for the real work to begin. During active labor, your cervix will dilate to 10 centimeters (cm). Your contractions will become stronger, longer, closer together and regular. Your legs might cramp, and you might feel nauseous. You might feel your water break - if it hasn't already. You might feel increasing pressure in your back as well. If you haven't headed to your labor and delivery facility yet, now's the time.

Don't be surprised if your initial excitement wanes as your labor progresses and the pain intensifies. Don't feel that you're giving up if you ask for pain medication or anesthesia. Your health care team will partner with you to make the best choice for you and your baby. Remember, you're the only one who can judge your need for pain relief.

How long it lasts: Active labor often lasts up to eight hours. For some women, active labor lasts hours longer. For others - especially those who've had a previous vaginal delivery - active labor is much shorter.

What you can do: Look to your labor coach and health care team for encouragement and support. Try breathing and relaxation techniques to combat your growing discomfort. Use what you learned in childbirth class or ask your health care team for suggestions.

To promote comfort during active labor:

  • - Change positions
  • - Roll on a large rubber ball (birthing ball)
  • - Take a warm shower or bath
  • - Take a walk, stopping to breathe through contractions
  • - Have a gentle massage between contractions

The lst part of active labor - often referred to as transition - can be particularly intense. If you feel the urge to push but you're not fully dilated, your health care provider might ask you to hold back. Pushing too soon could cause your cervix to swell, which might delay delivery. Pant or blow your way through the contractions.

Stage 2: The birth of your baby
It's time! You'll deliver your baby during the second stage of labor.

How long it lasts: It can take from a few minutes up to a few hours or more to push your baby into the world. It often takes longer for first-time moms and women who've had an epidural.

What you can do: Push! You might be encouraged to push with each contraction to speed the process. Or you might take it more slowly, letting nature do the work until you feel the urge to push.

When you push, don't hold tension in your face. Bear down and concentrate on pushing where it counts. Experiment with different positions until you find one that feels best. You can push while squatting, sitting, kneeling - even on your hands and knees.

At some point, you might be asked to push more gently - or not at all. Slowing down gives your vaginal tissues time to stretch rather than tear. To stay motivated, you might ask to feel the baby's head between your legs or see it in a mirror.

After your baby's head is delivered, his or her airway will be cleared and your health care provider will make sure the umbilical cord is free. The rest of your baby's body will follow shortly.

Stage 3: Delivery of the placenta

After your baby is born, you'll likely feel a great sense of relief. You might hold the baby in your arms or on your abdomen. Cherish the moment. But a lot is still happening. During the third stage of labor, your health care provider will deliver the placenta and make sure your bleeding is under control.

How long it lasts: The placenta is typically delivered in about five minutes. In some cases, it might take up to 30 minutes.

What you can do: Relax! By now your focus has likely shifted to your baby. You might be oblivious to what's going on around you. If you'd like, try breast-feeding your baby.

You'll continue to have mild contractions. You might also experience chills or shakiness. Your health care provider might massage your lower abdomen to encourage your uterus to contract and expel the placenta. You might be asked to push one more time to deliver the placenta, which usually comes out with a small gush of blood.

Your health care provider will examine the placenta to make sure it's intact. Any remaining fragments must be removed from the uterus to prevent bleeding and infection. If you're interested, ask to see the placenta.

Your health care provider will also determine whether you need stitches or other repair work. If you do, you'll receive an injection of local anesthetic in the area to be stitched if it's not numb already. You might also be given medication to encourage uterine contractions and minimize bleeding.

Now what?

Savor this special time with your baby. Your preparation, pain and effort have paid off. Revel in the miracle of birth.


Was There Someone Not Able to Make It to Your Birth

By Jeana Lee Tahnk

All of my pregnancies and birth experiences hold such happy memories for me. But my most vivid memories are of my first (nearly a decade later), due most likely to the fact that every experience was brand new - getting that belly bump, feeling the baby kick, the ultrasounds. Not to mention the fact that this was my parents' first grandchild, which made each milestone that much more celebrated.

For my parents, that celebration also included incessant worrying. Which meant daily phone calls to me "checking in" - making sure I was eating well, resting enough and taking care of myself. I understood where they were coming from and thought it was cute. I know I'll be the same way when/if my kids have kids.

We were living a few states away from my parents at the time and, because we didn't have the technology we have now, our correspondence occurred primarily over the phone. As I got closer to my due date, we started to talk about when they'd visit. We all decided they would come meet their grandchild after my husband returned to work - it would give my husband and me the time to bond with the baby, and it would also be of great help when my husband's paternity leave was over.

There was part of me that was sad they wouldn't be there until two weeks after the birth, but I didn't want them making the long drive back and forth several times.

After our son was born, our first call was to my parents to let them know they had a grandson. I will never forget talking to my parents from that hospital bed, hearing them crying on the other end of the phone with such joy and emotion at becoming grandparents for the very first time.

We didn't have the luxury of instant photos, FaceTime or Skype back then, so I described over the phone his every gorgeous feature, his full head of black hair, his perfect little fingers and how serene he was. My parents hung onto my every word and were beyond ecstatic to meet him.

The next day, sitting in my hospital bed, there was a knock at the door. Expecting it to be one of the nurses, you can imagine my surprise when the door opened and there were my parents, who had woken up at the crack of dawn to make the five-hour drive down to see us. In between tears, my mom said, "How could I not come see you and meet our first grandchild?" It's a moment I will never forget.

So even though my parents weren't there right after the birth, that surprise visit meant even more. And I wouldn't have wanted it any other way.

Read More by Jeana Lee Tahnk

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Mixed Emotions Leading up to and after the Delivery

By Jeana Lee Tahnk

Having a baby is one of the biggest events in your life, regardless of whether it's baby No. 1 or baby No. 4. It's normal to go through periods when you're so excited to meet your little one and then terrified of what life with that little one is going to be like, especially the first time around.

The reality is that every baby is different and every baby has different needs. Even though you may have walked the road before and know the ins and outs of newborn care, you can never anticipate what it's really going to be like. Although, anyone who has gone through a pregnancy knows the highs and lows that result from the hormonal shifts and emotions surrounding this huge life transition.

During my third pregnancy (with two very active older kids), I was able to acknowledge all the emotions I was having - good or bad - and realized it was my own way of processing what was about to happen. I was always conscious of the fact that this was going to be my last one. My last 20-week ultrasound, my last baby bump, my last labor ... You get the gist.

Having that sense of finality definitely made it an emotional experience. I am one of those people who happen to love being pregnant, and I kept reminding myself to appreciate this last pregnancy to its fullest (despite the nagging indigestion). Add the usual flux of hormones that comes along with any pregnancy, and it's safe to say I was a bundle of emotions throughout the nine months.

I asked myself, was I ready to go back into the diaper-changing/up-all-night/newborn stage that can be so exhausting and draining at times? Of course, it was a little too late to be questioning it, but the reality of having a baby in the house after so many years definitely was a source of anticipatory anxiety.

In addition to my own emotions, of course, I had to consider how my kids would handle having a new baby in the house. Would it change the dynamic considerably? Would they be jealous? Luckily, we benefited from them being older, more mature and better able to understand the change that was coming, but still, it was a huge transition for everyone involved.

Be especially kind to yourself during this time of change and know that whatever you're feeling most likely is something every other mom-to-be and new mom has felt before.

Read More by Jeana Lee Tahnk

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It's Ok to Have the Baby Blues

By Jeana Lee Tahnk

When you've had more than one child, you expect certain things to be similar across all pregnancies. I'm so lucky to have had three healthy and routine pregnancies, despite constant, massive indigestion during all three. There are plenty worse symptoms to have, for sure, but sleeping at a 90-degree angle for nine months straight (27 in total!) wasn't exactly a picnic. There were other similarities during each of my pregnancies that I'll spare you from, but one thing I wasn't expecting was the post-birth baby blues I had after my third.

Sure, after babies No. 1 and No. 2, I had moments of tears, but they were brief and limited to the first couple days. It was probably due more to the labor and recovery, and just being overcome with emotion after having gone through such a momentous life experience.

With baby No. 3, however, the blues didn't hit until a couple of days afterwards, and they felt different from the post-birth emotions I had before. The tears seemed a little more frequent, more persistent and more nagging. Because it was something I had never experienced before to this degree, I didn't really know what to do.

When the nurse from the doctor's office called me for my routine post-birth check-in several days after I was discharged, I didn't do a very good job of masking the tears. I thought to myself, I just had a beautiful and healthy baby. Shouldn't I be experiencing that euphoria you see in the movies? (That self-induced guilt didn't help, by the way.)

I went to see the doctor and was reassured that it was normal to have those feelings. I knew in my head that post-baby blues were a real thing, but experiencing it myself made it so much more than just a statistic. My wonderfully caring doctor said I really needed to take care of myself, accept help and just take things day to day.

And I did. Rather than try to clean the house while the baby was napping, I rested also. Even though I didn't feel like venturing out, I did. I took walks, which helped tremendously. There is no question my hormones were raging post-birth, but getting out and not shutting myself inside the house did wonders for me.

What also helped was having a supportive network to rely on - talking to my husband and best friends, accepting those meals that people generously offered and knowing that ultimately things would get better.

I was lucky that my post-baby blues didn't persist and the hormones that were causing a number on my emotions eventually evened out. But having gone through the experience makes me even more sympathetic to other moms out there who have the same issue.

Everyone has their own post-birth experience. Some women do indeed experience euphoria, while others don't at all. No two experiences are the same, but every feeling should be validated.

For those moms who are feeling the blues, know that it's OK. Talk to someone you love, or seek help from a qualified professional if you feel as though it's too much to handle. You will get through it. I did.

Read More by Jeana Lee Tahnk

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I'm Sick of the Judgments About C Sections

By Karri-Leigh P. Mastrangelo, The Huffington Post

There is an enormous difference between a breast augmentation and a Cesarean section. Or is there?

On one hand, you've got an elective surgery that may slow, reverse (or at least cover up) skin damage caused by excessive strain on a female body part. On the other hand, you've got... well, sort of the same thing. So, maybe that explains why I feel judged like Heidi Montag exiting the plastic surgeon's office whenever I mention having delivered both of my daughters via a C-section? Either way, I'm tired of it.

Long story short, I was born with a hernia that went unrepaired because there was never any need to repair it. Honestly, I never considered the tiny defect an issue until several months into my first pregnancy when I appeared to have two growing baby bumps. My obstetrician and a surgeon quickly confirmed that the second growth was not an alien, as my husband and I had been calling it, but an abdominal hernia that could become quite dangerous while pushing during labor. Though I was disappointed to settle on a scheduled Cesarean section, the collaborative decision was made based upon the risk both baby and I could face if I didn't.

On and off throughout the rest of my pregnancy, my feelings on the issue vacillated. At times, I was thankful not to experience the agony depicted in the old school sex education video about childbirth that so many of us watched in junior high. At other times, I was sad not to experience the agony depicted in the old school sex education video about childbirth that so many of us watched in junior high. (Give me a break... I was hormonal.) In the end, I was lucky enough to experience the best of both worlds.

I was in the 38th week of my first pregnancy with the date of my scheduled C-section nearly one week away when I made the (somewhat infamous) decision to work one more night before officially starting my maternity leave. A senior level producer on television's The Bachelor and The Bachelorette at the time, I was hesitant to hand over the reigns to my maternity leave replacement on the very first night of filming a new season. So as men filed out of the limousine, one by one, hoping to meet the love of their lives, I waddled around, waiting to meet one of the loves of mine.

In the wee hours of the morning, while still on set, I went into labor. Next came rushing home to wake my husband, freaking out because my hospital bag wasn't yet packed, and cursing my way through many (many) contractions.

In the end, I did what any mother would do. I gave birth.

It doesn't matter to me whether I gave birth via vaginal delivery or Cesarean section. It doesn't matter to me whether I gave birth with the help of (FDA approved) drugs or just the soothing smell of lavender. And it doesn't matter to me whether I gave birth during what you would consider an elective, cop-out surgery or an emergency life saving one.

Frankly, it shouldn't matter to you either.

Follow Karri-Leigh's adventures as a television producer, blogger and mom on Dirty Laundry & Dirty Diapers.

Image: Getty Images


How to Have a Successful Vaginal Birth After a CSection

By Nicole Fabian-Weber, Cafe Mom

For decades, pregnant women lived by the principle that once they gave birth via cesarean, that's how all subsequent deliveries had to be. This school of thought was due to the restrictions the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) put on the practice in the '90s, which caused many hospitals to refuse natural labors for women who already underwent C-sections. But, thankfully, in 2010, the ACOG became more lax with its restrictions, giving women more opportunities to attempt vaginal births after C-section, or VBACs.

There are many reasons pregnant women find VBACs to be an attractive option. With vaginal births, there are shorter hospital stays, quicker recoveries, and less blood loss involved in the delivery process. And the good news? According to the American Pregnancy Association, about 90 percent of women who have undergone cesarean deliveries are candidates for VBACs, and in most studies, roughly 3 to 4 out of 5 women who have previously undergone cesarean birth can successfully give birth vaginally.

Thinking of attempting a VBAC? Here are 5 ways to put the odds in your favor.

Monitor your weight. Many patients end up with a C-section because they gained more than the recommended amount of weight during pregnancy (between 25 to 35 pounds) and had bigger babies. The bigger the baby, the higher risk for a C-section. Exercising and being mindful of what you eat can allow for a smaller baby and a higher chance for a vaginal delivery. Daniel Roshan, MD, a maternal fetal medicine specialist in New York City with a high VBAC success rate, suggests running and swimming for his pregnant patients attempting VBACs. "This allows for a stronger body, better abdominal muscle tone, and pushing power," he notes. "It also decreases the risk of developing gestational diabetes, which leads to bigger babies."

Try evening primrose oil. It's important you talk to your doctor before taking any supplements, but Dr. Roshan gives his patients evening primrose oil starting at 34 weeks. "This makes the cervix much softer and more amenable to dilation when the labor starts," he says. "Many patients have C-sections because their cervix does not dilate."

Avoid inducing labor. "Using medication to induce labor (Pitocin) increases the risk of uterine rupture, and the best is to avoid it or use it very carefully," states Dr. Roshan. "Induction is not a natural process. The uterus, pelvis, and baby are not ready for labor, and this by itself increases the risk of cesarean. If there is no clear need to induce, it is best is to wait for spontaneous labor, which allows the baby to be in a better position, and the body is more ready for giving birth."

Wait between pregnancies. Many doctors will recommend you avoid getting pregnant for 18 months after a C-section to increase the odds of a successful VBAC. The reason? The interval between pregnancies can help the uterus to heal, and the scar of the C-section will be stronger, so the likelihood of it separating during pregnancy or labor is decreased. "Twelve to 18 months is recommended in between pregnancies for VBAC patients," suggests Dr. Roshan. "Unless the patient is of an age where she might not be able to get pregnant easily, then a shorter interval is allowed. However, the recommendation is to do a repeat C-section in such a case."

Choose your caregiver wisely. After you've made the decision to try to have a VBAC, you should do your homework. Typically, midwives have lower rates of cesarean sections (though you may want to seek out a midwife who delivers at a hospital in the case that you do need a C-section). If you're not comfortable giving birth with a midwife, look for a doctor/hospital with a low cesarean section/high VBAC rate, and be sure to discuss your intentions with your practitioner before you go into labor. You want someone who is up on the latest studies; preferably who doesn't view VBACs as "high risk"; and of course, who is on the same page as you.

What are you doing to prepare for your delivery?

Image: Getty Images

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