About Labor & Delivery

Is This Labor?

Worrying about whether or not you are in real labor? This is a fact of life towards the end of pregnancy. Many women worry that every cramp or odd movement is labor. Sometimes the symptoms of late pregnancy will actually mask the signs of labor. If you have contractions that get stronger, longer and closer together - you are most likely in labor. Call your midwife or doctor for advice. Try to use the 411 method: Contractions four (4) minutes apart, lasting one (1) minute, for at least one (1) hour.

Once you have determined that you are in labor, your body will proceed in a certain fashion. You will have contractions, your cervix will efface and dilate and your baby will move down into birthing position and be born. The amount of time this takes varies widely from mother to mother and pregnancy to pregnancy. The average labor for a first time mom is about 12-18 hours.

3 Actual Signs of labor and 1 breathing technique:


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Call Your Health Care Provider When:

  • Your contractions are between 5 and 10 minutes apart. (Use a stop watch or timer if you have one.)
  • Your water breaks, especially if the fluid is stained dark, greenish brown.
  • Pain is beyond an acceptable level.
  • You experience vaginal bleeding.
  • You can no longer walk or talk during contractions.
  • You are concerned about your health or the health and well-being of the baby.

If you think you may be going into labor, don't hesitate to call your health care provider, regardless of what time it is day or night.

Dad's Corner - Your Role in Labor

[Adapted from The Joy of Pregnancy, by Tori Kropp, R.N. Copyright © 2008, used by permission of The Harvard Common Press.]

You may be feeling uncertain of what you'll be doing while your partner is in labor. Your very presence will mean much to her. When I say presence, I mean that with words or actions or both, you convey to her that you are with her, all the way. You are not on the sidelines; you are beside her, providing encouragement, support, and reassurance.

You may be planning to be her sole moral supporter during labor and birth, and such intimacy can be a wonderful thing. Or the two of you may choose to have a friend, relative, or doula with you to provide comfort and reassurance. If you aren't comfortable providing all the moral support for your partner, planning for a helper may be a good idea. Women who have constant support in labor generally have shorter labors, describe their labors as being more manageable, and have birth experiences that are more positive.

There are many ways you will support your partner. Here are some especially helpful things that you can do for her:

  • Assist her in maintaining a relaxed body and attitude. Help her to be as loose and limp as possible.
  • Encourage her to walk and to change positions frequently. Alternate walking with rest periods.
  • In early (latent) labor, help distract her from her contractions. Walk in the park, go toa movie, or even go shopping.
  • Encourage her to drink liquids frequently.
  • Talk to her softly and lovingly during her contractions. If each of her contractions lasts about the same length of time, use your watch to let her know when she is halfway done. If she is on a uterine monitor, you can tell when the contraction is starting, peaking, and ending by watching the tracing on paper. Knowing that a contraction is nearly over can help her get through it.
  • Help her with her breathing techniques and concentration.
  • Remind her to deal with just one contraction at a time.
  • Encourage and assist her to shower or bathe. It is wonderful to labor in water!
  • Touch and support her physically during each contraction, unless she prefers not to be touched.
  • Massage her wherever it feels good to her. Apply counterpressure on her lower back. To protect your own back, position yourself close to her, lean in, and use your body weight rather than arm strength to apply pressure.
  • Occasionally time and record contractions.
  • Apply balm to her lips if they are getting dry.
  • Praise her often. Remain positive, especially if her confidence is dwindling. Don't let her lose sight of the fact that she will have a baby in her arms soon.
  • Offer her ice chips or juice bars.
  • Wipe her face with cool, wet cloths when she is perspiring.
  • Let her know if you need to leave the room. Try not to leave her alone during contractions unless she requests it.
  • Remind her to pee every hour or so. She may feel only the pressure of the contractions and not realize that her bladder is full.
  • Bring her a blanket and socks if she needs them.

To be with the person you love most as she gives birth to your child is a gift and an honor. It can also be a great source of stress. The most difficult part of a partner's role is feeling helpless. There will be times in the labor when you may wish to take away her pain or her work. Know that this is normal.