You're in! See your latest actions or visit profile and dashboard
Account Information
Dashboard
March for Babies Dashboard

  • Preferences
  • Messages
  • Favorites

Get ready for labor

  • Use a birth plan to make choices about childbirth.
  • Take a childbirth education class.
  • If you’re healthy, wait for labor to begin on its own.
Now playing:
save print
e-mail

At the hospital

Every hospital is different, so it's a good idea to schedule a tour of the hospital a few weeks before your due date. This will help you know what to expect when you get there for labor.

When you arrive to have your baby, you will probably:

  • Fill out hospital admission paperwork, including insurance information (it's common for this to be done in advance through the health care provider).
  • Meet the team that will support your birth plan.
  • Go to the labor and birth unit.
  • Change into a hospital gown, or your own nightgown or big shirt.
  • Be examined to see if how much your cervix is dilated (opened).
  • Be connected to a fetal monitor to time the contractions and check the baby's heartbeat

Last reviewed December 2013

Signs of preterm labor

  • Contractions every 10 minutes or more often
  • Change in vaginal discharge
  • Pelvic pressure
  • Low, dull backache
  • Cramps that feel like your period
  • Abdominal cramps with or without diarrhea

Most common questions

Do I need a birth plan?

You don't have to have a birth plan. But having one is a great idea! A birth plan is a set of instructions you make about your baby's birth. It tells your provider how you feel about things like who you want with you during labor, what you want to do during labor, if you want drugs to help with labor pain, and if there are special religious or cultural practices you want to have happen once your baby is born. Fill out a birth plan with your partner. Then share it with your provider and with the nurses at the hospital or birthing center where you plan to have your baby. Share it with your family and other support people, too. It's best for everyone to know ahead of time how you want labor and birth to be.

What are Braxton-Hicks contractions?

You may feel Braxton-Hicks contractions starting early in your third trimester. They're usually painless but can be uncomfortable. They are different from true labor contractions. Braxton-Hicks don't come in a regular pattern, and they don't get closer over time. They may stop when you walk, change positions or rest. They may happen more often in the evening, especially if you're dehydrated. They may be weak and stay that way, or there may be a few strong ones followed by weak ones. You usually feel them in the lower abdomen and groin. True labor contractions come in regular intervals, get closer together and steadily stronger, and last 30 to 90 seconds. They don't go away, no matter what you do. The pain usually starts in the back and wraps around to the front. If you're having any kind of contractions and think you might be in labor, call your provider.

Have questions?

Stay informed

Get the newsletter and find out how you're helping babies.