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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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C-section recovery: What to expect

If you're planning a cesarean delivery or you want to be prepared in case you need to have a C-section, you might have questions about the recovery process. How much discomfort will you experience? What breast-feeding positions might work best for you? Understand how to take care of yourself and your baby during C-section recovery.

Treat your C-section incision with care

During the C-section recovery process, discomfort and fatigue are common. To promote healing:

  • Take it easy. Rest when possible. Try to keep everything that you and your baby might need within reach. For the first couple of weeks, avoid lifting anything heavier than your baby.
  • Support your abdomen. Use good posture when you stand and walk. Hold your abdomen near the incision during sudden movements, such as coughing, sneezing or laughing.
  • Seek pain relief. Your health care provider might recommend a heating pad, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others), acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) or other medications to relieve pain. Most pain relief medications are safe for breast-feeding women.
  • Drink plenty of fluids. Drinking lots of fluids can help replace those lost during delivery and breast-feeding, as well as help prevent constipation.

Look for signs of infection

Check your C-section incision for signs of infection. Contact your health care provider if:

  • The incision is red, swollen or leaking discharge
  • You have a fever higher than 100.4 F (38 C)
  • You experience increasing pain around your incision

Experiment with breast-feeding positions

You can begin breast-feeding almost immediately after the C-section. To minimize discomfort, place a pillow over the incision while holding your baby. Breast-feeding positions that work well during C-section recovery include:

  • Football hold. Hold your baby at your side, with your elbow bent. With your open hand, support your baby's head and face him or her toward your breast. Your baby's back will rest on your forearm. It might help to support your breast in a C-shaped hold with your other hand. For comfort, put a pillow on your lap and use a chair with broad, low arms.
  • Side-lying hold. Lie on your side and face your baby toward your breast, supporting him or her with one hand. With the other hand, grasp your breast and touch your nipple to your baby's lips. Once your baby latches on, use one arm to support your own head and the other to help support the baby.

If you're having trouble breast-feeding during your C-section recovery or afterward, contact a lactation consultant for help.

Manage other postpartum signs and symptoms

While you're recovering from your C-section, remember that you're also recovering from pregnancy. Here's what to expect:

  • Vaginal discharge (lochia). Expect a bright red, heavy flow of blood for the first few days after the C-section. It might contain a few small clots. The discharge will gradually taper off during the first month postpartum, becoming watery and changing from pink or brown to yellow or white. Contact your health care provider if you have heavy vaginal bleeding, discharge with a foul odor, or you have a fever of 100.4 F (38 C) or higher.
  • Contractions. You might feel contractions, sometimes called afterpains, during the first few days after the C-section. These contractions — which often resemble menstrual cramps — help prevent excessive bleeding by compressing the blood vessels in the uterus. Your health care provider might recommend an over-the-counter pain reliever. Contact your health care provider if you have a fever or if your abdomen is tender to the touch. This could indicate a uterine infection.
  • Sore breasts. Several days after the C-section, your breasts might become firm, swollen and tender (engorgement). To ease discomfort, nurse, use a breast pump, apply warm washcloths or take a warm shower to express milk. Between feedings, place cold washcloths or ice packs on your breasts. Over-the-counter pain relievers might help, too.

    If you're not breast-feeding, wear a firm, supportive bra, such as a sports bra, to help stop milk production. Don't pump or rub your breasts, which will cause your breasts to produce more milk.

  • Leaking milk. If your breasts leak between feedings, wear nursing pads inside your bra to help keep your shirt dry. Change pads after each feeding and whenever they get wet.
  • Hair loss and skin changes. During pregnancy, elevated hormone levels increase hair growth and put normal hair loss on hold, creating an extra-lush head of hair. After delivery, however, hair growth decreases and your body begins to shed the excess hair all at once. Hair loss typically stops within six months. At the same time, stretch marks typically fade from red to silver. Skin darkening that can occur during pregnancy, such as dark patches on your face, will also slowly fade.
  • Mood changes. Childbirth can trigger mood swings, irritability and anxiety. Many new moms experience mild depression, sometimes called the baby blues, which typically subsides within a week or two. In the meantime, take care of yourself. Ask for help and support. If your depression deepens or you feel hopeless and sad most of the time, contact your health care provider.
  • Postpartum depression. If you experience severe mood swings, loss of appetite, overwhelming fatigue and lack of joy in life shortly after childbirth, you might have postpartum depression. Contact your health care provider if you think you might be depressed, especially if your signs and symptoms don't fade on their own, you have trouble caring for your baby or completing daily tasks, or you have thoughts of harming yourself or your baby.
  • Weight loss. After your C-section, you'll probably feel out of shape. You might even look like you're still pregnant. This is normal. Most women lose more than 10 pounds during birth, including the weight of the baby, placenta and amniotic fluid. During your recovery, you'll drop more weight as your body gets rid of excess fluids. After that, a healthy diet and regular exercise can help you return to your pre-pregnancy weight.

The postpartum checkup

About six weeks after delivery, your health care provider will check your abdomen, vagina, cervix and uterus to make sure you're healing well. In some cases, you might have the checkup earlier so that your health care provider can check your C-section incision. He or she might do a breast exam and check your weight and blood pressure, too. Use this checkup as an opportunity to talk about resuming sexual activity, birth control, breast-feeding and how you're adjusting to life with a new baby.

Also, be sure to discuss any questions or concerns you might have about your physical or emotional health. Your health care provider will likely be able to provide advice and assurance as you adjust to life with your newborn.


This article was from Mayo Clinic Health Information Library and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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Umbilical cord care: Do's and don'ts for parents

Wonder how to care for your newborn's umbilical cord stump? Follow these tips to promote healing.

Why your baby has an umbilical cord stump

During pregnancy, the umbilical cord supplies nutrients and oxygen to your developing baby. After birth, the umbilical cord is no longer needed — so it's clamped and snipped. This leaves behind a short stump.

After birth, the umbilical cord is clamped and snipped.

Taking care of the stump

Your baby's umbilical cord stump will change from bluish white to black as it dries out and eventually falls off — usually within three weeks after birth. In the meantime, treat the area gently:

  • Keep the stump clean. Parents were once instructed to swab the stump with rubbing alcohol after every diaper change. Researchers now say the stump might heal faster if left alone. If the stump becomes dirty or sticky, clean it with plain water — then dry it by holding a clean, absorbent cloth around the stump or fanning it with a piece of paper.
  • Keep the stump dry. Expose the stump to air to help dry out the base. Keep the front of your baby's diaper folded down to avoid covering the stump. In warm weather, dress your baby in a diaper and T-shirt to improve air circulation.
  • Stick with sponge baths. Sponge baths might be most practical during the healing process. When the stump falls off, you can bathe your baby in a baby tub or sink.
  • Let the stump fall off on its own. Resist the temptation to pull off the stump yourself.

Signs of infection

During the healing process, it's normal to see a little blood near the stump. Much like a scab, when the cord stump falls off, a little bleeding might occur. However, contact your baby's doctor if the umbilical area ooze pus or the surrounding skin becomes red and swollen. If your baby has an umbilical cord infection, prompt treatment is needed to stop the infection from spreading.


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4 Tips to Get the Most Out of Your Hospital Stay

Delivering a baby is a big deal. Whether you have your baby vaginally or by C-section, you’ll likely be spending a few days in the hospital. Some moms appreciate their time in the hospital and find comfort in knowing there are experts available, while others wish they could rush their baby home and get comfortable in their own space. Whether you love the hospital or hate it, there are a few things you can do to make the most of your stay.

Rest

Even though you’ll likely be up at night nursing or caring for your little one, you won’t be cooking, cleaning, or taking care of anyone else while you’re in the hospital. Take advantage of the opportunity to keep your feet up, snuggle your brand new baby, catnap throughout the day, and rest when you can at night. If you’re really wiped out, the nurses on duty will usually be able to take your little one for a bit so you can get a few hours of uninterrupted sleep.

Get advice from the experts

One of the best parts of being in the hospital is that you are a button’s push away from people whose job it is to take care of babies. Having trouble nursing? Page the lactation consultant and request a one-on-one session. Concerns about managing any special circumstances your newborn may have? Request the doctor return to go over any special instructions with you again. Never changed a diaper, bathed a newborn, or cleaned an umbilical cord stump? That’s what the nurses are there to teach you to do! If you have any questions about how to best care for your newborn, take advantage of all the knowledgeable people around you and seek their guidance. 

Visit with your loved ones

Once you get home from the hospital you’ll be in charge of taking care of your baby (and your house and any other kids you have) 24/7 and while visiting with friends sounds refreshing, it can often be more stressful than enjoyable in those first few weeks. Invite your friends and family to visit in the hospital (where a mess is forgiven and visitors won’t stay too long) and take the time at home to get comfortable with your routine before having anyone over.

Stock up on supplies

Before you leave the hospital stock up on all the supplies you’ll need to take care of yourself as you heal over the next few weeks. Most hospitals will happily hand off extra mesh undies, disposable pads, wash bottles, and ice packs, all you have to do is ask! Make sure to ask your nurse if there’s anything else they can think of that will help you heal and if they have any on hand they can pass your way. 


This article was written by EverydayFamily from Everyday Family and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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Signs of labor: Know what to expect

In the movies, babies are often born quickly and in dramatic fashion. The mother doubles over from the pain of a single contraction and suddenly the baby appears. In reality, however, labor usually takes time — and the early signs of labor can be subtle. Here's what you need to know about the common signs of labor.

Effacement: Thinning of the cervix

Before labor, the lower part of your uterus called the cervix is typically 3.5 cm to 4 cm long. As labor begins, your cervix softens, shortens and thins (effacement). You might feel uncomfortable, but irregular, not very painful contractions or nothing at all.

Effacement is often expressed in percentages. At 0 percent effacement, the cervix is at least 2 centimeters (cm) long, or very thick. Your cervix must be 100 percent effaced, or completely thinned out, before a vaginal delivery.

Dilation: Opening of the cervix

Another sign of labor is your cervix beginning to open (dilate). Your health care provider will measure the dilation in centimeters from zero (no dilation) to 10 (fully dilated).

At first, these cervical changes can be very slow. Once you're in active labor, expect to dilate more quickly.

Increase in vaginal discharge

During pregnancy, a thick plug of mucus blocks the cervical opening to prevent bacteria from entering the uterus. During the late third trimester, this plug might be pushed into your vagina. You might notice an increase in vaginal discharge that's clear, pink or slightly bloody. This might happen several days before labor begins or at the start of labor.

If vaginal bleeding is as heavy as a normal menstrual period, however, contact your health care provider immediately. Heavy vaginal bleeding could be a sign of a problem.

Nesting: Spurt of energy

You might wake up one morning feeling energetic, eager to fill the freezer with prepared meals, set up the crib and arrange your baby's outfits according to color. This urge is commonly known as the nesting instinct.

Nesting can begin at any time during pregnancy but for some women it's a sign that labor is approaching. Do what you must, but don't wear yourself out. Save your energy for the harder work of labor ahead.

Feeling the baby has dropped lower

Lightening is the term used to describe when the baby's head settles deep into your pelvis. This might cause a change in the shape of your abdomen. This change can happen anywhere from a few weeks to a few hours before labor begins.

Rupture of membranes: Your water breaks

The amniotic sac is a fluid-filled membrane that cushions your baby in the uterus. At the beginning of or during labor, your membranes will rupture — also known as your water breaking.

When your water breaks you might experience an irregular or continuous trickle of small amounts of watery fluid from your vagina or a more obvious gush of fluid. If your water breaks — or if you're uncertain whether the fluid is amniotic fluid, urine or something else — consult your health care provider or head to your delivery facility right away. You and your baby will be evaluated to determine the next steps.

Once your amniotic sac is no longer intact, timing becomes important. The longer it takes for labor to start after your water breaks — if it hasn't started already — the greater you or your baby's risk of developing an infection. Your health care provider might stimulate uterine contractions before labor begins on its own (labor induction).

Contractions: When labor pains begin

During the last few months of pregnancy, you might experience occasional, sometimes painful, contractions — a sensation that your uterus is tightening and relaxing. These are called Braxton Hicks contractions.

To tell the difference between Braxton Hicks contractions and the real thing, consider these questions:

  • Are the contractions regular? Time your contractions from the beginning of one to the beginning of the next. Look for a regular pattern of contractions that get progressively stronger and closer together. False labor contractions will remain irregular.
  • How long do they last? Time how long each contraction lasts. True contractions last about 30 to 70 seconds.
  • Do the contractions stop? True contractions continue regardless of your activity level or position. With false labor, the contractions might stop when you walk, rest or change position.

Expect false alarms

Remember, no one knows for sure what triggers labor, and every woman's experience is unique. Sometimes it's hard to tell when labor begins.

Don't hesitate to call your health care provider if you're confused about whether you're in labor. Preterm labor can be especially sneaky. If you have any signs of labor before 37 weeks — especially if you also experience vaginal spotting — consult your health care provider.

If you arrive at the hospital in false labor, don't feel embarrassed or frustrated. Think of it as a practice run. The real thing is likely on its way.


This article was from Mayo Clinic Health Information Library and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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Packing for the Hospital: What to Take

I wish I’d remembered to bring: "A hair elastic. I didn't pack anything to keep the hair out of my face during labor, which is funny because I keep hair clips and elastics everywhere at home. Must have been pregnancy brain!"

I’m glad I remembered to bring: "My fluffy bathrobe," says Tracey B., a mom of one in Hartford, Connecticut. "Being in my own robe at the hospital was comforting. And it was nice to look decent with family popping in and taking pictures.”

I wish I’d remembered to bring: "Slippers. The hospital socks they give you with the little nubby things are so scratchy, they twist all around on your feet, and are just blah!"

I’m glad I remembered to bring: "My pedicured toes!" says Lisa B., a mom of two in Phoenix, Arizona. "With my first, I’d look at my toes while I was pushing and thinking, ‘Wow, I hope no one notices my feet.”

I wish I’d remembered to bring: "Dried fruit, a tasty way to get my digestive system to start moving again."

I’m glad I remembered to bring: "Extremely large underwear. Huge!" says Stephanie C., a mom of one in Dallas, Texas. "After you give birth you have to wear a gigantic pad, and the hospital’s mesh undies aren’t that fabulous."

I wish I’d remembered to bring: "A sleeping mask, or even a scarf to wrap over my eyes. They tell you to rest once you have the epidural, but all the flashing lights and activity keep you awake."

I’m glad I remembered to bring: "Wet wipes," says Lauren G., a mom of two in Little Falls, New Jersey. "I was very sensitive after giving birth, and wipes were way better than toilet paper."

I wish I’d remembered to bring: "My favorite lotion. The hospital soaps and sheets are on the rough side and it can get chilly, both of which cause dry skin."

I’m glad I remembered to bring: "A pair of comfy pants to go home in," says Desiree W., a mom of one in Las Vegas, Nevada. "You’re larger than you think you’ll be when you leave the hospital, but I felt fine in soft, elastic-waist pants."

I wish I'd remembered to bring: "An iPod. It would have been a way to deflect family who dropped by to chitchat. I love them, but it was like, Look, I’m in labor here!”

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Packing For The Hospital: A Labor of Love

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Dad's D-Day Duties

When D (delivery) day finally rolls around, Papa's main goals are to stay calm and help Mama.

We all know what a mom’s job is during labor and delivery, but a dad plays a crucial role as well. So how can you prepare for what’s bound to be a physically exhausting day for your partner and an emotional one for both of you? Check out these tips so you can proceed with patience and confidence.

Know your facts.

If you know going in that this might be a really long day, you’ll be better able to manage your (and your partner’s) expectations. So keep in mind that spending ten to 20-plus hours in labor is not unusual for first-time moms (though a recent study found that six and a half hours is typical). Here’s where you come in: Break out the board games, feed her as many ice chips as she wants, and walk with her if she’s up for it. Gently massage her head, back, or feet if she’ll let you, and hold her hand during those really rough contractions.

Keep smiling.

Prolonged intense pain can make even the sweetest woman swear like a sailor and the toughest woman come undone. Be prepared for either or both and try to ignore any negative comments your honey may hurl your way. She (probably) doesn't mean what she says.

Expect the unexpected.

No one — not even the most experienced obstetrician — can predict how your wife’s labor and delivery will go, so keep an open mind in case you need to adjust your birth plan. For example, you two may have discussed a delivery without medication, but things can change as labor progresses. For many women, the transition phase of labor (when dilation is around 8 cm) is the most painful part and an epidural may suddenly seem like a good idea.

Be her advocate.

During labor, your normally take-charge partner may not be able to speak up for herself, so be ready to be assertive on her behalf. Insist on speaking with the doctor if you or your wife is uneasy about what’s happening. Be a squeaky wheel if the anesthesiologist is AWOL. Be firm but respectful: Even in a critical medical situation (an emergency C-section, for example), you have the right to ask for at least a brief explanation of why an intervention is being made.

Capture the moment, but don’t miss it.

When it comes to documenting your baby’s grand entrance, technology can be a blessing and a curse. If you get too caught up in filming or tweeting about the birth, you may not experience it for the incredible moment that it is. And one more word of caution about your delivery movie: Just because it’s possible to share it with everyone doesn't mean you have to.

Be a hero.

When it’s all over and you’re holding your brand-new baby, be conscious of what your wife has just accomplished. She deserves a little — no, a lot — of recognition for making it through labor and delivery, not to mention nine months of pregnancy. No need to break the bank with a blingy “push” present if that’s not your style: But taking the time to write a loving note of gratitude and/or a small gift will be really meaningful to her.

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Delivery Day Tips for Dad

The big day is just around the corner: You’re about to become a father! Chances are you’re a wild mix of emotions: excited, nervous, and maybe even a little scared. But never fear, dad-to-be: We’ve collected tips and advice to help you make it through delivery day with flying colors.

When your baby’s birthday arrives, you’ll undoubtedly be swept up in a flurry of events and emotions. From helping time contractions to ensuring your partner’s overnight bag is in the car and ready for the hospital, to holding your partner’s hand as she gives birth — delivery day is full of excitement.

Here are some tips to help you prepare:

  • Listen.
  • “Your wife is going through a tremendous physical and emotional change while pregnant. She needs your support and care,” says Dr. Steven J. Hanley, a clinical psychologist and father of a 5-year-old and 3-year old. On the big day, your partner will be keenly aware of her body. But things can still be confusing for her. “Listen to her and respect her opinion,” Hanley adds.

  • Know that it’s OK to be scared.
  • You may find yourself worrying about how sexual intimacy will change after baby’s birth, thinking about the challenges your own father faced, or feeling nervous about how your new family dynamics will work. This is all normal; and it is completely OK to talk about these feelings with your partner, a family member, or a close friend.

  • Act on her behalf.
  • “It is natural to be anxious, but your wife will need you to ‘step up,’” says Hanley. For example, be sure you have discussed the birth plan so you can confidently remind the birthing team of her wishes.

  • Plan ahead.
  • Help your partner pack her overnight bag and chat with her about any additional things you can bring when it is time to head to the hospital. And don’t forget to pack a bag for yourself, too. Bring a change of clothes and toiletries, in case labor stretches into the wee hours of tomorrow morning.

      TIP: Pack a button-up shirt, or wear one on delivery day, so you can have some skin-to-skin bonding with your newborn. This practice is suggested as a beneficial way for both mom and dad to bond with their newborn, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

  • Be prepared for the unexpected.
  • Childbirth can be an overwhelming, frightening experience. Be ready to see your partner respond to birth in ways neither one of you might expect.

  • Study up.
  • Review what you’ve learned from your childbirth classes and research or query your partner’s doctor if you have questions about labor and delivery. Understand what will be happening to your partner’s body, and know what the process will be if she needs birth assistance or a C-section.

  • Help provide distractions.
  • Bring movies, a book to read to her, or anything else your partner might like to have on hand as you both work through the sometimes long hours leading up to baby’s arrival.

  • Keep an eye on contractions.
  • Consider downloading a contraction app to help track your partner’s contractions. While at the hospital, ask a nurse to show you how to follow along with the contractions monitor. You’ll then be able to talk your partner through an impending peak, or let her know that a break may be on the way.

  • Consider working with a doula prior to and during delivery.
  • Hiring a doula (a trained and experienced professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to the mother before, during and just after birth) might be helpful to assist with the more technical side of childbirth, so you can focus on the emotional side, says Hanley.

  • Be attentive.
  • “Don't overwhelm your partner or suffocate them,” says Samantha Van Vleet, a birth doula, childbirth educator, and an instructor for a birth professional distance education program (intuitivechildbirth.org). “Pay attention to her cues and respond accordingly. If you're having trouble reading cues, be direct. Ask her, ‘Is there anything I can help you with?’ and then act on it.”

  • Be a record keeper.
  • If your partner wishes to have video or photos of the birth, be sure to have all equipment and backup batteries ready. Also, it can be a sweet gesture for you to keep written notes of the day’s events to share with her and baby later.

      TIP: If you’d like to be totally present in the delivery room, make sure someone you and your partner both trust is on camera duty.

  • Build and bring a contact list.
  • Often, dad is in charge of sharing the good news with family and friends once baby is born. Make sure you and your partner assemble a list of important phone numbers and email addresses and enter them in your phone.

  • Pay attention to what your partner does and doesn't want.
  • “Women in labor go into a very primal state,” says Van Vleet. “Don't overwhelm her with conversation or a barrage of questions when deep in labor. You may get stressed. You may be tired. But remember, your partner is enduring this fatigue and stress too, while laboring.”

  • Be there.
  • Just your presence and willingness to help can make all the difference. Ask your partner if she’d like to squeeze your hand. Offer a foot or back rub between contractions. And let her know you’re there for her.

  • Trust your partner.
  • “(Your partner) intuitively knows what she needs during this process. Be present. Be willing. Be open. You can do this,” says Van Vleet.

  • Most important: Enjoy the moment!
  • “It will be surreal, exciting, and maybe even a little scary. But it is an also a miracle that you'll remember forever,” says Hanley.

Image: Thinkstock

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5 Reasons (I Think) I'm Scared About Giving Birth the Second Time.

As I write this, I'm a few days shy from the due date of my second child, and I'm going to be honest: I'm terrified. I'm not scared of having a newborn like I was last time, as I'm obviously far more experienced with babies this time around. I'm not even freaked out about balancing two kids, which I'm sure won't be without its challenges. I'm scared of the actual act of giving birth.

The birth of my first child, my daughter, was by most standards relatively easy, and for lack of a better word, pleasant. She was born naturally after about 14 hours of labor, and I only pushed for an hour. I never felt scared or anxious during the experience, and the staff at the hospital where I delivered was incredibly nice and accommodating.

After my daughter was born, I obviously experienced a degree of uncomfort, but I never thought to myself, "Oh, my god, I could never do that again." So, I'm not 100 percent sure why I'm so freaked out this time. In fact, when I first found out I was pregnant for the second time, I said to my husband, "Weirdly, I'm actually kind of even looking forward to giving birth again."

But now that it could happen any day now? Not so much. In fact, not at all. I'm mostly chalking this fear up to the fact that I'm what feels like 14 months pregnant and my brain is marinating in a concoction of potent hormones, but I also think there are other factors playing in.

Here are five reasons (I think) I'm more freaked out about giving birth for the second time.

  1. I know what to expect.

    As I said, the birth of my daughter was by no means traumatizing. Still, I'm intimately familiar with what it's like to bring a human into this world -- and I wouldn't exactly say it "tickles." I keep telling myself that it's temporary pain for a lifetime of happiness, but the "ouch" factor is a little hard to overlook.

  2. I have a child already.

    Last time around, my water broke around 3 a.m. and my husband and I simply waltzed out of our apartment into the Brooklyn night. Before leaving, we turned lights on, gathered our things, talked at a normal volume, as there was no one else to be concerned with. Things are a little more complicated this time, being that we have a two-and-a-half-year-old. There's childcare to coordinate (and what if said childcare doesn't answer their phone?!); noises to stifle, should I go into labor at night again; and, of course, the worry that the people watching my daughter (her beloved babysitter and my sister) won't do things just so for her, and it'll be meltdown city.

  3. Second babies come faster.

    In theory, this sounds great. Less time spent in labor and pushing, but, as ridiculous as this sounds, I do have the low-grade worry in the back of my mind that I'm going to become a local news headline for delivering my baby in the car because we didn't make it to the hospital in time. I suppose there could be worse things, but, given the choice, I'd pass on that, thanks.

  4. I'm scared something is going to go wrong.

    This thought is something that never entered my mind my first pregnancy -- not even for a second. I was concerned about the pain but never once feared something would go (really) wrong. While I know that odds of something bad happening to my baby or myself are incredibly slim (particularly since this has been an uneventful pregnancy), every once in a while, when I'm lying awake in the middle of the night, the thought makes its way into my head, where it takes up residence for a few hours, and -- need I even say it? -- it's not fun. I chalk this up, again, to the fact that I already have a child, and there seems to be more at stake if something were to happen to me. Talk about an un-fun worry to have.

  5. We've never left our daughter before.

    Over the summer, my husband and I took a quickie "babymoon" trip a few hours away for a night. We saw my daughter the morning before we left and again the next (early) afternoon when we returned. It isn't that we're staunchly against leaving our child, the opportunity just really never presented itself. So, now, in addition to worrying about giving birth, I'm worrying about worrying about my daughter while I'm giving birth since we've never left her before. (I never said I was laid-back, or, you know, "sane" right now.)

I'm hoping that when it's go-time, these fears and anxieties will magically melt away and I'll be "in the moment" (as I should be), and predominantly focused on meeting my sweet little baby.

But until then... help!

Were you more scared the first time or the second time you gave birth?

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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.


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