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Labor and Childbirth

When you are ready to have your baby, you'll go through labor. Labor is the process of giving birth. The due date is 40 weeks after the first day of the last menstrual period, although sometimes it is determined by an ultrasound. For most women, labor occurs sometime between week 37 and week 42 of pregnancy.

Just as pregnancy is different for every woman, the start of labor, the signs of labor, and the length of time it takes to go through labor will vary from woman to woman and even from pregnancy to pregnancy.

Signs that you might be going into labor include:

  • Contractions that are regular then start to come closer together
  • Leaking fluid or bleeding from the vagina
  • Low, dull backache
  • Abdominal cramps

Call your healthcare provider if you have any of these signs, even if it is before your due date. Preterm labor can start before 37 completed weeks of pregnancy.

Stages of Labor

Labor happens in three stages. The first stage begins with contractions. It continues until your cervix has become thinner and dilated (stretched) to about 4 inches wide. The second stage is the active stage, in which you begin to push downward. Crowning is when your baby's scalp comes into view. Shortly afterward, your baby is born. In the third stage, you deliver the placenta. The placenta is the organ that supplied food and oxygen to your baby during pregnancy.

You and your baby are monitored closely during labor. Most women are able to have a baby through normal vaginal delivery. If there are complications, the baby may need to be delivered surgically by a Cesarean section.

Where will you deliver your baby?

Lompoc Valley Medical Center: Hospital’s Birth Center offers 6 labor, delivery recovery and postpartum suites (LDRP) and a state of the art Cesarean (C-section) operating room; all expertly designed to make each birth as comfortable and as safe as possible. These single-patient rooms have private bathrooms and are outfitted with all of the amenities to make you feel at home during the patient's stay. Each room is furnished with a sleeper sofa for your partner and comfortable seating for guests.

Learn more about Lompoc Valley Medical Center: Hospital’s birth center.

Childbirth Education

Certified, experienced childbirth and lactation specialists offer a variety of education classes to help prepare you, your coach and your family for the arrival of your new baby. These classes can help you to feel more con dent about what to expect with childbirth and parenting.

Learn more about Childbirth Education Classes.


A C-section, short for cesarean section, is also called cesarean birth. Cesarean birth is the delivery of a baby through surgical cuts in a woman’s abdomen and uterus. The uterus is then closed with stitches that later dissolve. Stitches or staples also close the skin on the belly.

The surgery is relatively safe for mother and baby. Still, it is major surgery and carries risks. It also takes longer to recover from a C-section than from vaginal birth.

You may want to have a cesarean birth even if vaginal delivery is an option. You should discuss this option in detail with your healthcare provider before making a final decision about a C-section.

Pain Relief During Labor

The amount of pain felt during labor and delivery is different for every woman. The level of pain can depend on many factors, including the size and position of the baby and the strength of contractions. Some women learn breathing and relaxation techniques to help them cope with the pain. These techniques can be used along with one or more pain-relieving drugs.