After nine months of incredible growth and changes both in the mother and the fetus, your body will start to show signs that it’s time for your baby to be born. Many women have fears about delivering their child, partly because they’re not sure what to expect. Baptist Health wants to help you be proactive and learn what happens before, during and after childbirth. Be sure and talk to your physician, so he or she can answer any other questions you may have.
What happens before childbirth?
Baptist Health offers monthly classes focused on prepared pregnancy and childbirth for the mother and her support partner. Instruction covers pregnancy, labor and delivery (including breathing & relaxation techniques) and postpartum.
Be Healthy. Be prepared.
Baptist Health offers free, guided tours of the labor and delivery unit. A tour not only allows you to become more familiar and comfortable with the labor/delivery/recovery (LDR) rooms, but also gives you an opportunity to plan where to park and check-in when you arrive at the hospital.
We suggest that you call Labor and Delivery prior to coming in for a tour. This allows the staff to verify that there is a room available. To schedule a tour at Baptist Health Medical Center-Little Rock, call (501) 202-1717; for Baptist Health Medical Center-North Little Rock, call (501) 202-3675. Children and other family members are welcome.
Choosing a Pediatrician
Choosing a pediatrician is an important step for first-time parents. You may choose to seek recommendations from family and friends or you may want to interview a few pediatricians. The pediatricians at Baptist Health welcome you to make appointments to ask questions and get to know them prior to making a decision. Click here to find a Baptist Health pediatrician
Packing for the Hospital
As you get closer to your due date, it’s a good idea to have your bag packed and ready to go.
But, one of your concerns may be knowing what supplies you should bring. We've compiled this comprehensive list to help you plan ahead.
- Photo ID
- Insurance Card
- Hospital Paperwork
- Cell Phone and charger
- Camera and accessories (battery, charger, memory card)
- Eyeglasses or Contacts and solution (if you wear them)
- Comfortable bra or nursing bra
- Comfortable clothes and shoes for the trip home
- Toiletries for Mom:
- Sanitary Pads
- Hair Brush
- Hair Dryer
- Baby Formula
- Toiletries for Baby:
- Baby Comb
- Baby Clothes
- Baby Blanket
- Car Seat
Pre-Registration to the hospital will make your admission even faster by collecting medical history and insurance information in advance. In order to better serve you, we ask that you pre-register several weeks prior to your due date. Pre-Registration packets may be picked up at your doctor’s office or you can pre-register online.
Your arrival to Labor and Delivery is a time of great excitement and we’re here to ease any stress or apprehension you may have. Enjoy the convenience of special maternity parking with easy access to Labor and Delivery. After a few quick questions about your condition at the admissions desk, you will be escorted to one of our Labor/Delivery/Recovery (LDR) rooms.
A Baptist Health Labor/Delivery/Recovery (LDR) room means you can stay in the same room from labor to delivery and while recovering from childbirth. LDR room facilities were created with your comfort in mind and feature a warm, home-like atmosphere with cable TV and sleeping accommodations for Dad. Some are even equipped with therapeutic tubs to ease labor discomfort.
Baptist Health is also proud to offer a world-class experience with family suites available in the Women’s Center at Baptist Health Medical Center-Little Rock. Learn more about the Postpartum Suites.
Should your physician not be available when you arrive, a board-certified obstetrician from our laborist group will evaluate your progress and react to any complications with your pregnancy, if needed. This constant presence makes childbirth safer for women and babies.
Below is helpful information about what to expect as childbirth begins.
What happens during childbirth?
Signs of Labor
Signs of labor vary from woman to woman, as each woman experiences labor differently. Some common signs of labor may include:
- Bloody show. A small amount of mucus, slightly mixed with blood, may be expelled from the vagina indicating a woman is in labor.
- Contractions. Contractions (uterine muscle spasms) occurring at intervals of less than ten minutes are usually an indication that labor has begun. Contractions may become more frequent and severe as labor progresses.
- Rupture of amniotic sac. Labor sometimes begins with amniotic fluid gushing or leaking from the vagina. Women who experience a rupture of the amniotic sac should go to the hospital immediately and contact their physician. The majority of women go into labor within hours after the amniotic sac breaks. If labor still has not begun after 24 hours, a woman may be hospitalized for labor to be induced. This step is often taken to prevent infections and delivery complications.
If a woman feels unsure if labor is beginning she should always call her physician.
Stages of Labor
Each labor is different. However, labor typically is divided into three stages:
First Stage. The first stage of labor is divided into three phases: latent, active and transition. The latent phase is the longest and least intense. During this phase, contractions become more frequent, helping your cervix to dilate so your baby can pass through the birth canal. Discomfort at this stage is still minimal. During this phase, your cervix will dilate approximately three or four centimeters and efface, or thin out. If your contractions are regular, you will probably be admitted to the hospital during this stage.
During the active phase, the cervix dilates from four to seven centimeters. You may feel intense pain or pressure in your back or abdomen during each contraction. You may also feel the urge to push or bear down, but your doctor will ask you to wait until your cervix is completely open.
In the transition phase, the cervix fully dilates to 10 centimeters. Contractions are strong and frequent coming every three to four minutes and lasting 60-90 seconds.
Second Stage. The second stage of labor begins when the cervix is completely opened and ends with the delivery of the baby. The second stage is often referred to as the "pushing" stage. During the second stage, the woman becomes actively involved by pushing the baby through the birth canal to the outside world. When the baby's head is visible at the opening of the vagina, it is called "crowning." The second stage is shorter than the first stage, and may take between 30 minutes to three hours for a woman's first pregnancy.
Third Stage. After the baby is delivered, the new mother enters the third and final stage of labor -- delivery of the placenta (the organ that has nourished the baby inside of the uterus). This stage usually lasts just a few minutes up to a half-hour. This stage involves the passage of the placenta out of the uterus and through the vagina.
Each labor experience is different and the amount of time in each stage will vary. However, most women will deliver their baby within 10 hours after being admitted into the hospital, if the labor is not induced. Labor is generally shorter for subsequent pregnancies.
For many mothers, pain management is among the most important childbirth considerations in selecting a hospital. At Baptist Health, we offer 24-hour anesthesia capabilities, enabling us to respond quickly and efficiently to your needs, no matter what the time of day.
A woman has many options for managing the discomforts that occur during labor and the birth of her baby. Generally, mothers and their physicians want to use the safest and most effective method of pain relief for both mother and baby. The choice will be determined by the woman’s preference and health, the health of the fetus and the physician’s recommendation.
There are three main types of pain management for labor and birth:
- Natural or non-medicated measures. Many women learn special techniques in childbirth classes to help them feel more comfortable and in control during labor and birth. Some of these techniques include: breathing and relaxation, heat on the lower back, a cold washcloth on the forehead, changing positions, sitting on a birthing ball or walking around.
- Analgesics. These are medications to relieve pain without total loss of feeling or muscle movement. They can make the pain tolerable without affecting your ability to push.
- Anesthesia. These are medications that block all feeling, including pain. They also block muscle movement. Different types of anesthesia include:
- Epidural anesthesia (also called an epidural block). This anesthesia involves infusing numbing medications through a thin catheter that has been inserted into the space that surrounds the spinal cord in the lower back, causing loss of sensation of the lower body. Infusions of medications may be increased or stopped as needed. This type of anesthesia is used during labor and for vaginal and cesarean deliveries. The most common complication of epidural anesthesia is low blood pressure in the mother. Because of this, most women need to have an intravenous infusion of fluids before epidural anesthesia is given. A risk of epidural anesthesia is a postpartum headache. It may develop if the epidural needle enters the spinal canal, rather than staying in the space around the canal. The anesthesiologist will discuss the risks, benefits, and alternatives to the various methods of pain relief with the patient.
- Spinal anesthesia. This type of anesthesia involves injecting a single dose of the anesthetic agent directly into the spinal fluid. Spinal anesthesia acts very quickly and causes complete loss of sensation and loss of movement of the lower body. This type of anesthesia is often used for cesarean deliveries.
- General anesthesia. This type of pain relief involves giving an anesthetic agent that causes the woman to go to sleep. This type of anesthesia may be used in emergency cesarean deliveries.
In some cases, the vaginal opening does not stretch enough to accommodate the fetus. It may be necessary to expedite delivery, for example, if the baby is in distress. In such cases, the healthcare provider may perform an episiotomy. An episiotomy is a surgical cut made by your doctor in the perineum (the area between the vagina and anus) to help deliver the baby or prevent tearing. Episiotomies are not needed for every delivery and are not routinely performed.
In some cases, labor has to be "induced," which is a process of stimulating labor to begin. The decision to induce is often made when a woman is past her due date but labor has not begun or when there is a concern about the baby’s or mother’s health. A few specific reasons for induction include preeclampsia and chronic high blood pressure.
To ensure the safest childbirth, Baptist Health’s Labor and Delivery physicians and staff have committed to eliminate all elective deliveries prior to 39 completed weeks of gestation. There is essential growth and development in the last few week of pregnancy and we want to make sure that every baby has the opportunity to reach his or her full development.
Common techniques of induction include:
- Inserting vaginal suppositories that contain prostaglandin to stimulate contractions.
- Administering an intravenous infusion of oxytocin (a hormone produced by the pituitary gland that stimulates contractions) or similar drug.
- Rupturing (artificially) the amniotic sac.
Cesarean Birth (C-Section)
If a woman is unable to deliver vaginally, a surgical procedure called cesarean section (c-section) is performed in which the baby is removed through the mother’s abdomen. Some cesarean sections are planned and scheduled accordingly, while others may be performed as a result of complications that occur during labor. Cesarean section is major surgery and carries risks. Healing also takes longer than with vaginal delivery.
As part of the admission process, you will be asked for information for your baby's birth certificate. The birth certificate is an important, permanent legal document that will be used by your child throughout life, sometimes to authenticate other legal documents. After the birth certificate has been completed, Baptist Health will send it to the State Health Department Division of Vital Records to be registered. You will be given a form you can mail with your fee to request a legal copy of your baby's certificate. Please wait approximately two weeks before mailing this form to allow the State Health Department Division of Vital Records time to file the birth. If you don't receive the birth certificate, please call the Division of Vital Records at (501) 661-2336. The Social Security card will be applied for automatically with the registration of your baby's birth. You should receive this card by mail within 10 weeks.
What happens after childbirth?
Staying at the Hospital
When you have finished recovering from childbirth, you will move to the mother-baby unit. All of our staff complete extensive training to provide evidence-based maternity care practice and provide all mothers with the information, confidence and skills to support infant feeding and mother/baby bonding.
A comprehensive system of hospital infant security is in place to ensure the safety and security of all infants in our unit. The nursing staff will educate parents about the electronic surveillance system and the entire security plan in place to prevent infant abduction.
Your baby will have these screenings before you leave the hospital:
- Hearing Screening - Every infant delivered at Baptist Health has a non-invasive and painless hearing screening prior to discharge. A small cable with a rubber tip will be placed in each ear followed by small clicks that will be sent through the cable to see if each ear can hear the sound. Infants that are unable to "pass" this exam will be referred to an audiologist in infant testing. If an infant does not pass the initial screening in the hospital, it does not mean the infant cannot hear. Certain factors such as gestational age or fluid in the ear can affect early test results.
- PKU (Phenylketonuria) - This test will be done when the baby is 24-48 hours old. A small amount of blood is taken from a vein in the baby's hand or heel. The blood is then sent to the State Department of Health who will notify you and your doctor if there are any problems.
- Jaundice (Bilirubin) - A Bilirubin test is done if your baby has yellow skin or eyes. The test measures the amount of Bilirubin in the blood. Bilirubin is a waste product that occurs naturally in your baby when red blood cells are broken down. A small amount of blood is taken from a vein in the hand or heel and sent to our lab. Results are known in 2-3 hours. High Bilirubin levels may be treated with phototherapy.
- Critical Congenital Heart Disease - This test measures the amount of oxygen in a baby's blood using a machine called a pulse oximeter, with sensors placed on the baby's skin. The test is painless and takes only a few minutes. Low levels of oxygen in the blood can be a sign of critical congenital heart disease.
The first few days following your baby's arrival are a time for the family to get better acquainted with its newest member. We want you to have the opportunity for family bonding in the Labor and Delivery room, but we also encourage other family members to visit, if requested by the parents. You may be asked to limit the number of young visitors under the age of 12 or anyone who exhibits signs of illness such as coughing, sneezing or running fever.
Breastfeeding Support Services
Baptist Health advocates for breastfeeding as the best feeding method for infants. Our staff is here to make sure you receive all the education and assistance with breastfeeding your new baby to give you the confidence to care for your baby at home.
Every new mom deserves breastfeeding support from International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLC) postpartum even when you get home. Staffed by IBCLC Registered Nurses, Expressly For You at Baptist Health is Arkansas’ breastfeeding place for resources, advice and even accessories for purchase or rental. Click here to learn more about Expressly For You
A baby is placed in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) because, in the opinion of the professionals present at the birth of the baby, it is the best place for the child to be observed, treated and cared for. Reasons for admission depend on the history and gestational age of the baby. After being admitted and examined, the team can give a more detailed explanation of what is going on. Click here to learn more about Baptist Health’s NICU
The first few days after having your baby are a time for rest and recovery, both physically and emotionally. Your doctor will talk with you about things you will experience as your body starts to recover such as vaginal discharge, swollen legs and feet and menstrual-like cramping. You will also experience many emotional changes. Postpartum blues may occur a few days or even a few weeks or months after delivery and last anywhere from a few hours to several weeks. Postpartum blues can range from feeling "down" to being easily upset and unexplainably sad. Other symptoms might include a significant lack of energy, anxiety attacks, headaches, lack of appetite, insomnia, confusion, worrying about your physical appearance and a negative attitude toward your partner. If you experience any of these signs discuss them with your physician.
No parent should have to go through the experience of losing a child alone. We encourage you to actively seek support from people around you and talk to others who have had a similar experience.
The care you receive at Baptist Health doesn’t end when you leave the hospital. Our dedicated nurses will call after you have settled in at home to make sure everything’s going well and answer any questions you have.