7 Things You Should Know About Going into Labor

Image adapted via Flickr/ jaredandmelanie

I remember when I was nearing the end of my first pregnancy – I was excited, scared, and soaking up all the information I could about the next stage: labor and birth. The idea terrified me, I'm not going to lie. It didn't have a lot of experience with this whole thing – and being the first of my friends and siblings to have a baby, I relied a lot on reading about it.

There was a big difference between what I read about labor and what it was actually like to go through it. I realized I had a lot of misinformation about what to expect and what the process was going to be like – I was surprised.

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If you're preparing for labor and you're doing the crazy research like I was back then here are 7 things that I wish I knew then that I was surprised I didn't know before I experienced it myself.

Your contractions may not start slowly.

When I was preparing for my first labor, I attended classes and read books, blogs, and frequented forums online to learn what I could. I had understood that when contractions started, I would feel one every 15 minutes and slowly that would decrease to occur every 5 minutes, and when they were regularly 2 minutes apart, I would calmly had off to the hospital.

That didn't happen for me though. Once contractions hit, they hit hard and were immediately 2-5 minutes apart. There was no, “hmm, they're only 15 minutes apart now,” conversations – it was, “OUCH” every 5 minutes.

According to WebMD, mild contractions start 15-20 minutes apart, but for me – I didn't really feel those I guess.

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You'll wonder if it's real labor.

I kid you not, the first time I went into real labor I thought I was having a bad reaction to a milkshake I had a few hours prior. I was angry that it had interrupted my sleep and thought that soon enough I would be able to crawl back into bed. About an hour later, the pain increased and I realized that – hey, this has been happening on a regular interval. 13 hours later I was holding my first baby in my arms.

Image via Flickr/ Army Medicine

Not everyone has to go to the hospital.

There are so many options for labor and birth – from freebirth (or unassisted birth) where you have no outside assistance, to homebirth which is usually attended with a midwife, to a birth facility which looks closer to a hotel than hospital, and of course, the hospital.


When we see labor and birth on a TV show or movie, it always plays out the same: woman out in public, water breaks or contractions start, they freak out, head to hospital right away, have baby.

The truth is, real labor and birth isn't a one-storyline-fits-all deal; there are many options available to most non-high risk pregnancies and it's worthwhile to explore them all.

There's no real way to predict how long your labor will be.

I refused cervical checks near the end of my pregnancy because I had them before and got way too excited that they were predictors of how quickly I would start labor. They never were and I could walk around three centimeters dilated for weeks, and have nothing happen. Honest story: a friend of mine had a cervical check that revealed she was already centimeters dilated and didn't go into active labor for another week.

There's no real way to predict how long it will take you to go into labor and there's also no consistent way to predict how long your labor will last. For some women, if you had a fast labor during your first birth, it's reasonable to predict your next labor will be on the quicker side as well, but it's not always the case.

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You may feel nauseated, cold, hot, or anything in between.

Labor is hard work and your body is using strange muscles with weird hormones surging through you. All that can make you feel a little less than up to par, and that may mean you experience nausea, being too hot or too cold, shaking, or anything in between. They're all signs of the transition stage of labor, and they're considered to be normal.

Inductions can hurt a lot more than going into labor naturally, but they may not either.

Simulated contractions from induced labor can end up hurting more than a naturally occurring contraction, which is what you'll probably be told if you share that you're being induced. I had two labors that were induced and only found one to be more painful than my first birth (where I began the labor process on my own).

Just like each birth is unique, so is each birth experience. If you're worried about induction, be sure to talk it over with your care provider and make sure you've got all your concerns and questions addressed and answered.

{ MORE: 7 Essential Tips To Feel in Control During Childbirth }

You'll deliver your baby.

The doctor won't deliver your baby, your midwife isn't doing it, and it won't be your partner either. Sure, they may assist in your delivery – but you will be delivering your baby. Empower yourself with positive, in-control language because it can make a big difference in your experience.

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What is something about labor that you were surprised by? What do you think others would like to know?

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What do you think?

7 Things You Should Know About Going into Labor

Devan McGuinness is the founder of the online resource Unspoken Grief, which is dedicated to breaking the silence of perinatal grief for those directly and indirectly affected by miscarriage, stillbirth and neonatal death. Using her own experience of surviving 12 miscarriages, Devan has been actively supporting and encouraging others who are wading through the challenges associated with perinatal and neonatal loss. Winner of the 2012 Bloganthropy Award and named one of Babble's “25 bloggers wh ... More

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  1. Mireida says:

    This was a wonderful article and I wish I could have read it when I had my first child 3.5years ago. I recently had my second and although I wasn’t as afraid as the first time, it is still very nerve-wrecking. So the last topic about you being who delivers your baby and empowering yourself is so key. I didn’t have time for an epidural with my second so I did it all natural and it wasn’t as bad as I imagined. Being able to fully feel each contraction helped the pushing process. Its all in the breathing mommies and “yes, you CAN do it”! ♡

  2. ashley says:

    Very helpful being a first time mother

  3. Kara says:

    Best part of the article is the section that talks about ‘you will deliver your baby’ so true; good empowering words. The rest I think is mostly common sense.

  4. Sherri says:

    I could only hope this will help others!


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