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Labor & Delivery

You’re considered “in labor” when contractions become regular and the cervix begins to dilate. Also, by definition, labor starts when the water bag breaks. It’s not always obvious when labor starts. Here are some tools to help you prepare for and manage your labor.

  1. Leaking fluid: Any pregnant woman thinking they are leaking fluid must be evaluated in the office or hospital. Sometimes, it can be difficult to distinguish leaking amniotic fluid from leaking urine. Women who are unsure can try the following: go to the bathroom, urinate, and wipe dry. If there is still leaking, it may be amniotic fluid. Leaking fluid is different than the mucous-like vaginal discharge common to pregnancy.
  2. Contractions: After 37 weeks, all contractions can be considered labor contractions. 
  3. Timing: Contractions are timed from the beginning of one to the beginning of the next. 
  4. What it feels like Labor contractions should have a gradual onset, peak, then go away as slowly as they came on. And between contractions, there should be almost no pain. There should be a true space between contractions. Contractions worth timing should be painful. 
  5. Bleeding: The cervix bleeds as it dilates. The resulting discharge can be brown, red-tinged, or red. A normal amount is much less than a period, but it can be quite red. Bleeding like a period can be normal, but any woman with that much bleeding should be seen at the hospital.

Many are afraid to arrive at the hospital too early just to be sent home. It’s useful to understand labor in different stages. It starts with home labor and then hospital labor. Once in the hospital, there is the slow part of labor, then pushing, delivering the baby, and finally, the placenta. Home labor typically turns to hospital labor when:

  • The water breaks
  • The contractions are coming closer than every 5 minutes and have been that frequent for 90 minutes
  • The cervix is dilated with painful contractions (4 centimeters is usually enough, 2 cm may not be sufficient)
  • The cervix dilates over one or two hours (3 goes to 4 cm is usually enough, 2 cm to 3 cm may not be)

If you have a question about a non-life-threatening situation during regular business hours, call the Birth Center or Platteville Clinic directly before you go to an Emergency Room. 

OB/GYN: (608) 342-0986

Family Medicine: (608) 348-4330

Hospital & Birth Center: (608) 348-2331