Your baby is fully developed and it is just a matter of time before he or she arrives into the world. Nobody knows exactly what triggers labour but when your baby is ready to emerge your body starts releasing chemicals called prostaglandins that thin, soften and dilate the cervix. These trigger your uterus to start contracting and eventually push the baby out of your body. If you think you are in labour there is probably no need to panic as early stage labor can last hours or even days. It is not time to go to the hospital until contractions start occurring about five minutes apart. If you notice any spotting or your waters break, call the hospital as they may want to keep an eye on you.
Labour has three stages. It is not time to go to the hospital until you are in the second phase of active labour. This is when your cervix dilates from 3-4 centimeters to 7. In this stage the contractions may last up to a minute or so and can be very painful. The pain can be felt through your stomach, lower back and upper thighs. This is the time when you will probably want to think about pain relief (if you are planning to use it). After the second stage you’ll progress to the transition phase. This can often be the most challenging part as your cervix dilates to 10cm with contractions coming thick and fast. The official start of stage two of labor is when you start pushing. You will continue to have contractions but you will also feel an overwhelming urge to bear down. If you have had an epidural at this point you may not feel the contractions so your midwife or obstetrician will tell you when to push. This stage generally takes around 30-45 minutes. Once the baby’s head is out the doctor usually checks the position of the umbilical cord to check it isn’t wrapped around your baby’s neck before you deliver the body. Once you baby has been delivered, the umbilical cord will be cut severing your baby from the placenta. You will have some time to hold your baby and meet him or her, and then he or she will be weighed and examined by a doctor or nurse while you deliver the placenta.
Don’t forget to bring your camera to the hospital. Make sure it’s charged and you have a spare memory card – you will want to capture your baby’s first moments.
Everyone knows that hospital food is not that great. Pack some of your favourite foods and other nutritious snacks and treats to have in the hospital to keep your strength up.