If you are pregnant it won't be long before you experience the miracle of childbirth! It is important to recognize the signs of labor so that you will know when you are experiencing the "real thing." If this is your first baby, you will most likely experience lightening (the descent of the baby's head into your pelvis) sooner than women who have already had other children.
Typically, the signs of labor include uterine contractions, tightening of your stomach, and cramps in your low back. Your health care provider will also be able to describe the progression of the labor process, so you will know when it is happening.
In a few years, your child will want to know where they were born. Deciding where you will have your baby is a very exciting experience. There are many options available, including: at home, in a birth center, or at the hospital.
Birth centers usually have basic equipment such as that needed to administer intravenous fluid, pain medications, oxygen, repair episiotomies, an infant warmer, and an infant resuscitator. Hospitals have advanced medical equipment to do more than basic resuscitation, and will be able to provide a cesarean section or epidurals, if necessary.
A certified nurse-midwife can deliver your baby at home, or in a birth center. There are many factors to consider when choosing where you would like to have your baby such as the distance you are from the hospital, as some nurse-midwives will not deliver in your home if you are more than 30 minutes from a hospital. If your pregnancy is considered to be at high risk (as in women who smoke, or use drugs, or have medical complications due to a known condition), home births are not recommended.
You may also be interested in taking childbirth preparation classes, such as Lamaze, which emphasizes minimal medical intervention, teaches coping methods for labor and delivery, and helps guide new parents in the numerous decisions they will make before and during the birth process.
One of the things you may be most concerned with is the amount of pain you may experience during labor. Childbirth is different for all women, and no one can predict how much pain you may experience. During the labor process, your health care provider should ask you if you feel that you need pain relief, and will help you decide what option is the best for you. Your options may include a local or intravenous analgesic (pain relieving drug), an epidural (injection which blocks pain in the lower part of your body), spinal anesthesia (used when the delivery will require forceps), or a pudenal block (numbs the vulva, vagina and anus during the second stage of labor and during delivery).
Your progression through the different stages of labor and delivery will determine how quickly the baby is coming, and whether you have time to get to the hospital, birth center, or back home to deliver. Having information about your choices for birthing will help with some of the stress you may experience during labor.
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