Please note: This information was current at the time of publication. But medical information is always changing, and some information given here may be out of date. For regularly updated information on a variety of health topics, please visit familydoctor.org, the AAFP patient education Web site.
Information from Your Family Doctor
Labor and Delivery: What You Should Know
Am Fam Physician. 2008 Aug 1;78(3):343-344.See related article on spontaneous vaginal delivery.
How can I get ready for labor and delivery?
Make plans and discuss them with your doctor. Make sure you know where to go when you are in labor. Many doctors work in groups; therefore, you may want to find out which doctors could deliver your baby.
You can read about pregnancy and prenatal care, or talk to your doctor. One good book to read is What to Expect When You're Expecting, 4th edition, by Heidi Murkoff and Sharon Mazel. You should take the vitamins your doctor has prescribed for you, eat a healthy diet, and continue regular exercise during your pregnancy if your doctor says that it is okay.
What should I know when I go to the hospital for delivery?
It is a good idea to know your doctor's name and your due date. You should also know if you have had any problems during this pregnancy or a previous pregnancy.
If you are near your due date, you have probably been tested for bacteria called group B streptococcus (GBS). GBS will not hurt you, but it may harm your baby. If you have it, your doctor will give you antibiotics during labor to help protect your baby. Tell the hospital staff if you have GBS.
When is the best time to deliver?
If you have an uncomplicated pregnancy, it's best to deliver when you go into labor on your own. You should talk to your doctor about the signs of labor and about when you should go to the hospital. If you do not go into labor before your due date, ask your doctor about inducing labor with medicine. It is usually not necessary to do this sooner than one to two weeks after your due date.
What can I do to make my labor more comfortable and go faster?
Each labor is different. Your labor with your first baby will probably be the longest. Some women think walking during labor speeds it up and makes them more comfortable. You can try different positions to see which is most comfortable and which helps you to progress. You should discuss this with your doctor before and during labor.
You should also talk to your doctor about pain control and about what options will be available at your hospital. You may want to try massage, showering, walking, different positions, or medicines that you can take by mouth or through an IV. Epidurals are used at some hospitals to treat pain during labor. When you get an epidural, pain medicine is given through a small tube into your lower back. This helps to control the pain, but it may make your legs feel numb and weak like they have “fallen asleep.”
What is the best way to deliver my baby?
There are many different ways to deliver babies. There is not just one right way. You should ask your doctor what to expect when you are in labor. You and your doctor can decide what is best for you.
Where can I get more information?
Your doctor and the hospital where you will deliver
American Academy of Family Physicians
This handout is provided to you by your family doctor and the American Academy of Family Physicians. Other health-related information is available from the AAFP online at http://familydoctor.org.
This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.
Copyright © 2008 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.
This content is owned by the AAFP. A person viewing it online may make one printout of the material and may use that printout only for his or her personal, non-commercial reference. This material may not otherwise be downloaded, copied, printed, stored, transmitted or reproduced in any medium, whether now known or later invented, except as authorized in writing by the AAFP. Contact email@example.com for copyright questions and/or permission requests.
Want to use this article elsewhere? Get Permissions