After months of pregnancy and planning, the day has finally come – you’re getting ready to meet your baby. Your labor has just begun, or perhaps you aren’t sure, but you suspect it may have. You’re probably filled with a variety of emotions – excitement, joy, anticipation, anxiety – which is all completely normal, whether this is your first or fourth baby. Take a deep breath and know that the doctors and nurses at Parkland Health Center are here to help you.
If you suspect you’re in labor, call your Ob/Gyn first to discuss your symptoms and begin timing your contractions. If your doctor suspects you’re in labor, they will recommend that you have someone bring you to Parkland Health Center with your hospital bag. Your partner or support person will want to bring a bag as well.
In addition to your Ob/Gyn and nursing staff, you’re welcome to have your partner or support person stay with you at the hospital. We have partner sleeping accommodations in our private and semi-private suites. We are also a doula-friendly environment, if you decide you’d like to have a doula as part of your labor support team.
Arriving at Parkland Health Center
When you arrive at the hospital, you’ll park in the main surface parking lot and enter through the front entrance. If you’re arriving after 8pm, you’ll enter through the emergency department. After you check in and complete your registration at the front desk, one of our labor and delivery nurses will bring you into a triage room to examine you and determine whether or not you’re in labor. If you’re in labor, it will either be early labor or active labor.
Depending on the progress of your early labor, the medical team may give you the option of going home. Early labor is unpredictable. It can last for hours or even days, especially for first-time moms. For many expectant moms, it isn’t particularly uncomfortable. Your cervix will begin to dilate, and you may feel mild to moderately strong contractions. These contractions may last 30 to 60 seconds and come anywhere between five and 20 minutes.
Active Labor and Monitoring
If you’re in active labor, you’ll be admitted to one of our birth suites, where a team of doctors and nurses will examine and monitor you and your baby in preparation for delivery. Your nurse will administer an IV and connect you to a fetal heart monitor, tracking your contraction pattern and fetal heart rate constantly.
Our childbirth center uses a wireless fetal monitoring system that works with Bluetooth technology. The wireless feature means you’re free to move around, walk in the hallway, go to the restroom, etc. without the monitor being interrupted.
While you’re in active labor, you can have clear liquids, including water, ice, apple juice, cranberry juice, grape juice, Jell-O, and popsicles. You may also use other items to help you during your labor, such as a birth ball or taking a shower.
Active labor can last up to eight hours on average. For some women, however, it can last even longer. Your cervix will continue dilating to 10 centimeters. Your contractions will become stronger and last even longer, and you may also feel increasing pressure in your back.
Pain Management Options
If you’re planning an unmedicated labor, you may rely on Lamaze and other breathing techniques to suppress the pain. If you need pain medication or anesthesia (e.g. epidural), don’t hesitate to ask for it. You’re the only one who can decide if you need pain relief.
If you decide to have an epidural, you may have to wait until you’re dilated to a certain point. To prepare you for an epidural, your labor and delivery nurse will infuse warm fluid into your IV. After the infusion, one of our certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs) will insert the epidural into your mid-spine and administer the medication.
Once the epidural has taken effect, your pain should be considerably lessened. You’ll have very little feeling from the middle of your back down. Therefore, your nurse will help you change positions as needed throughout your labor. Your bladder will be emptied periodically with a catheter. The goal with the epidural is to relieve your pain, while still allowing you to feel enough pressure to be able to push effectively when the time comes to deliver.
Regardless of your labor preferences, rely on your partner/labor coach/doula for encouragement and support to help manage your pain. If you’re still experiencing pain and struggling to find relief, ask your medical team for other suggestions.
At Parkland Health Center, we’ve created a warm, comforting environment for expectant moms, to further enhance your experience, promote a sense of calm, and give you peace of mind. We have a number of amenities available for our childbirth patients in both our labor and delivery rooms as well as our mother-baby rooms:
- Birth Ball – An alternative to walking around or resting in bed. The birth ball helps relieve common discomfort during labor.
- Wireless Fetal Monitoring – The wireless feature means you’re free to move around, walk in the hallway, go to the restroom, etc. without the monitor being interrupted.
- Doula-Friendly Environment – We gladly welcome doulas who’ve been selected by our patients to assist them with their labor.
- In-Room Dining Service – We offer an extensive menu with various options, including special dietary and vegetarian requests. Everything is fresh, made-to-order and delivered to your room. Partners/support persons can even enjoy a complimentary breakfast.
- Snack Stations – Our convenient snack stations provide popsicles, beverages and other snacks for mothers and their partners.
We promise to make your childbirth as relaxing and enjoyable as possible. If there’s anything we can do to better accommodate your needs during your stay, just let us know. We’re here for you.