The day is finally here! What exactly should you expect? While I can’t tell you what you will be doing when you feel the first contraction or when other symptoms will commence, I can give you a heads up on warning signs and when it’s time to grab your hospital bag.
Some symptoms to look out for are: an increase in vaginal discharge, possibly brownish or pinkish in color, softening, thinning or dilation of the cervix, dull pain low in your back that comes and goes and the sensation of building pressure or cramping your pelvic area. You may also feel “practice” contractions that feel like a tightening or hardening of the uterus with possible mild cramps. Practice contractions or false labor is natural. These contractions are irregular and will subside after a time. These pains will die down if you move around. The pain will be felt in the lower abdomen and not in the lower back. This is not the real labor but a warning that your baby is on the way.
Unlike Braxton Hicks contractions or false labor, true labor pains don’t seize until delivery. They become more frequent and intense as time passes. Midwives describe the feeling as a tight band that starts in your back and radiates across the front of your belly. This is enough sign for you to grab your bag and go.
During early labor, your body begins to release the hormones that cause the uterus to contract, help soften and dilate the cervix. This causes frequent stool and diarrhea. Back pain is the norm for many pregnant women. A baby normally descends the birth canal with its face pressing against the mom’s spine (this is known as back labor). Back labor or any excruciating back pain is a sure signal that you are ready to deliver.
When your child makes their grand entrance, the doctor will suction their mouth and nose to clear away mucus and amniotic fluid. This should enable them to breathe on their own. The umbilical cord is then cut, and your baby’s Apgar score is taken (heart rate, reflex response, color, activity and muscle tone and breathing.) Seven and above is considered a healthy baby, while a score below this numbers means the baby’s health is compromised. The test is done again at 5 minutes interval until the issue is resolved. The baby is given antibiotic eye ointment to prevent eye infections that can result from passing through the birth canal. They also receive a vitamin K shot to prevent blood from clotting. At this point, if you are both able, the mom can start breastfeeding. After a few hours later, a nurse will examine your baby to check the pulse, assess for all the toes and fingers and also make sure the genitals have been formed properly. A Ballard score is also taken (head, chest circumference measurement). Preemies or premature babies will remain in the nursery where temperature, heart, and respiratory rate are monitored. Parents will be taught how to care for the newborn. The nurse will give them a bath as soon as the first bowel movement occurs. You will learn to swaddle the baby and how to handle the umbilical cord stump.
The other follow-up exams happen after 24 hours of birth has occurred.
You are now prepared for your first 24 hours. You got this mom and dad! All the best on your big day!