Labor & Childbirth
Your Birth Plan
Labor and delivery is an exciting time, and it's a time where you have many decisions to make. Rest assured that your provider will always recommend the safest and best way for you to meet your little one. At University Hospitals, we offer a full range of birth experiences that can be highly tailored to your specific wants and needs – including pain relief options, water birth, laboring techniques and tools, and more.
Be sure to share your birth plan with your provider as well as your labor and delivery team. We will work with you to accommodate your desired experience as long as it remains safe for both you and your baby.
Signs of Labor
Strong and regular contractions. Although you may experience contractions on and off for several weeks before delivery (known as false labor or Braxton-Hicks contractions), you're really in labor when:
- Your contractions are consistently 5-10 minutes apart.
- Your contractions are so strong you can't walk or talk during them.
- You feel pain in your belly and lower back.
- The pain doesn't go away when you move or change positions.
Water breaking: You may experience your water breaking as a rush of fluid or just a trickle. For many women, their water does not break until later in their labor after they have arrived at the hospital.
Bloody show: A bloody (brownish or reddish) mucus discharge is another sign that labor is beginning.
If you think you're in labor, call your health care provider, no matter what time of day or night. Your provider can tell you if it's time to head for the hospital.
Our Birth Centers
University Hospitals has birth centers located throughout Northeast Ohio, each one staffed by expert OB/GYN physicians and nurse-midwives, labor and delivery nurses, postpartum nurses, pediatricians and lactation consultants. Other specialists will be available as needed to make sure you and your baby are receiving the care you need.
What to Bring to the Hospital
The following items are needed for check-in/check-out of the hospital:
- ID and insurance card
- Car seat, properly installed (necessary for discharge), a car seat may be left in your car until the time of discharge or requested by your care team
The hospital will provide most everything you'll need for delivery and the postpartum period, but here are some things you may want to bring to make your stay more comfortable:
- Cell phone charger
- Comfortable shoes or slippers
- Nursing pajamas, nursing bras and robe
- Toiletries such as shampoo, soap and toothpaste
- An outfit for going home for both mom and baby
Arriving at the Hospital
Once you arrive at the hospital for delivery you can expect the following to occur:
- A nurse will give you a gown to change into and may ask that you collect a urine sample
- You may be tested for Coronavirus
- An IV will be placed and blood will be collected to check your blood count and blood type.
- An ultrasound may be completed to check on your babies positioning
- You will be placed on a fetal monitor to check your babies heart rate and to see if you are contracting
There are two major ways to deliver your baby: vaginal birth and cesarean birth (C-section).
This is recommended for most moms, unless your provider recommends otherwise. Vaginal delivery is typically recommended due to the positive benefits for mom and baby, which include faster recovery and shorter hospital stay than with a C-section. Studies have found that babies born vaginally receive an early dose of good bacteria as they travel through mom's birthing canal. These bacteria can help boost baby's immune system.
A Cesarean Birth
Oftentimes known as a C-section, is the delivery of the baby through incisions in the mother's abdomen and uterus. C-sections may be scheduled for women with pregnancy complications like:
- Chronic conditions (like heart disease)
- Baby is very large
- Carrying more than one baby
- Baby is in the breech position
- You've had a prior C-section
Sometimes, even if you plan on a vaginal delivery, an unplanned C-section may still be the best option if problems develop during labor that put you or your baby at risk. Your labor and delivery team will always discuss your options with you to help you weigh the risk and benefits.
What is Labor Induction?
If you are overdue or there are health risks to you or your baby, your provider may recommend labor induction. When you are induced, your labor and delivery team will use medications and/or mechanical assistance to stimulate contractions and soften the cervix. The goal of induction is to facilitate a vaginal delivery. It is common for this process to take 12-48 hours.
Cervical Ripening Agents
To prepare for labor and delivery, the cervix begins to soften (ripen), thin out (efface), and possibly even open (dilate) in the final weeks of pregnancy. Health care providers assess the cervix to determine the need for cervical ripening agents.
These agents include:
- Misoprostol (Cytotec): A pill that can be given through the vaginal, oral or buccal (between the gums and cheek) route at timed intervals
- Cervical ripening balloons: Rubber catheters with inflatable balloons designed to mechanically thin and open the cervix
The main agent used to stimulate contractions is oxytocin (Pitocin). This is a medication that can be used to induce labor, with the goal of promoting a vaginal delivery. Pitocin is administered through your IV and is started at a low dose. It is increased in small increments until contractions are strong and frequent enough to cause the cervix to change. The rate of Pitocin can also be lowered or stopped if contractions are too close together.
Risks of Labor Induction
Although the goal of induction is to facilitate a vaginal delivery, induced labor is not always successful. Some cervical ripening and induction agents can over-stimulate the uterus, causing contractions too frequently, which can lead to changes in the fetal heart rate. If this occurs, your care team will arrive at the bedside, stop the medication, and have you change positions. Certain medications cannot be used for women with a history of a C-section or uterine surgery, as they increase the risk of uterine rupture.