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As your belly grows and the clock ticks away towards your EDD, you will begin to nest and start fine tuning all of your plans for when labor starts.  Based on my experiences, I’ve compiled a list of things that may help you and your support team feel more comfortable with what to do when labor begins so that you don’t have to “think” about it, just do it. 

Fill Out Registration Paperwork

Luckily my OB’s office gave this to me at my first pregnancy appointment with a nifty little postage paid envelope.  If you don’t get it, ask for it from your care provider or the hospital directly.  Trust me, you don’t want to be fumbling around for your insurance card while you’re in hard labor.

Take a Tour

This might be something your practitioner can set you up with, or you can contact the hospital directly.  Again, you don’t want to be worrying about where to park or get dropped off, or have your partner desperately looking for help figuring out where to go while you are needing his or her support.  Taking a tour will let you see the place you need to head (though usually you can just get dropped off at the emergency department and they’ll wheel or walk you to where you need to go just fine.)  Knowing what to expect will help you transition into the hospital setting with a bit more peace of mind.  Also, being familiar with the room you will be laboring in (does it have a shower, tub, how big is it) will allow you to consider your labor options and know what is available to you so you can put it in your birth plan and ask for it when you want. 

Pack Your Bags Ahead of Time

There is a great article that another TBS contributor wrote that can be found here.  My only additions to this list include those awesome moist wipes like Pond’s to keep handy during labor and/or post delivery if for some reason you can’t get into the shower right away.  I had a natural wet wipe package meant for the face that I kept handy so that I could wipe my face and neck down when I felt icky.  There’s nothing like getting to take a shower and actually feeling clean, but it was nice to have a quick alternative if the option for showering wasn’t immediately available.  Also, you’ll likely want to snuggle with the baby as much as possible, but if you’re addicted to your connections, don’t forget your e-reader, tablet, and/or computer.  There were a few fleeting moments where I jumped online to update people, post pictures, and check out what was going on in the rest of the world.  For the most part I enjoyed my freedom from any other responsibility, but I did like having the option to get online if I wanted.

Know when to go to the Hospital

If you’re going to have a natural hospital birth, the key is to wait as long as you can before you go.  The sooner you go, the more slippery the slope when there are nurses constantly offering you an epidural. We are all strong, capable women, but a friend of mine who had her first birth at home said “I know understand why women get the epidural.  If I had been in the hospital, I would have asked for it.  I’m so glad I was at home because I knew I could do it and I DID IT!”  Now, please don’t take that as me trying to scare you.  Labor is intense, labor is sometimes painful; however, we can get through it!  When we are in labor, we are potentially vulnerable even with the right amount and quality of support staff.  The longer you labor at home, the farther along you will be and quite likely, the less chances you have of being tempted to give in to the suggestions of doctors and nurses who (sometimes) want to get things moving along for the sake of time rather than allow you to labor as you need to.

Most OB’s will tell you to go when your contractions are consistently more than 1 minute long and less than 5 minutes apart for an hour.  All women labor differently, but at this stage, you may not be as close to delivery as you may think.  Of course, you must consider all of this with respect to how long the drive to the hospital is and your level of comfort with laboring at home.  Conversely, you may be closer to delivery than you think.  Talk to your practitioner, and other moms who delivered in the same way you would like to have your delivery go (i.e. if you plan to go natural or if you plan to get an epidural.)  With all things pregnancy and birth related, you have many options; the best way to figure out what those options are and which ones are best for you is to become informed.

Know the Discharge Procedures

Most hospitals will discharge you 48 hours (or the next morning after the 48 hours are up if you delivered late at night/early in the morning) after a vaginal birth, and 72 hours after a c-section.  The morning you plan to leave they will have you fill out a bit of paperwork and send you on your way with instructions on how to care for yourself and the baby, as well as any warning signs that you or the baby should seek medical attention for.  Some will give you a prescription for pain medications, some will ask you if you want one, and others will not even offer or refuse.  If you are planning to leave and still in a lot of pain, talk to your practitioner about your concerns prior to discharge to make sure there isn’t anything they should consider keeping you for, (and so they can ease your mind if necessary.) Talk to your practitioner prior to labor about what the guidelines for discharge and length of stay are so you know what to expect and how to go about staying shorter or longer if you feel like the regular stay is not appropriate for you.

Go back to: Step #6: Preparing for Life with a New Baby

Go ahead to: Step #8: Initiating & Maintaining Breastfeeding

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