Welcome to the end of your pregnancy! Hopefully you’re feeling calm and ready and prepared. But even if you are worried that so many things feel undone—Is the nursery decorated? Do we have enough frozen meals? Do I have all my breastfeeding supplies?—the main thing now is to find a peaceful place and let those worries go. There will be plenty of time later to handle many of those things, and if you’re fortunate enough to have a strong support system in place, now is the time to ask for help!
If you’re finding yourself watching your body for every little symptom, any sign of impending labor, you’re not alone! Virtually every pregnant mom spends the final days of her pregnancy wondering when and waiting for “it” to happen.
One of the common concerns moms have at this point is about their water breaking. Despite what they show on movies, not every labor begins with a huge splash of amniotic fluid on the floor. In fact, less than 20 percent of labors begin with the classic “water breaking,” and of the ones that do, it’s not always a gusher of fluid. For many women, the rupture of the amniotic membrane results in a trickle of fluid or a leak, kind of like you feel like you are peeing, only it is happening continuously. So if you’re worried about being embarrassed in public, rest assured: that’s much less common than many people think.
In general, amniotic fluid should be clear. If you are leaking yellow liquid, it might be urine. Alternatively, if you’re leaking discolored or greenish liquid, it is probably meconium, and you should call your healthcare provider immediately. Liquid that is thicker like mucus can be your mucus plug or semen, but if you aren’t sure, call your doctor or midwife to get their advice.
One thing to know: once your water breaks, you’re on your way to having the baby sooner rather than later. In most cases, labor will begin within 24 hours. If it doesn’t start on its own, your healthcare provider will likely stimulate labor, either by breaking the bag the rest of the way or with drugs to stimulate labor. This is usually recommended within a few hours of your water breaking to try and avoid an infection in the uterus, but every woman’s situation is different. Once again, this is a good question to ask at a prenatal visit.
Lastly, don’t worry if you blow right by your due date with no sign of labor yet. Your baby doesn’t have the same calendar you do. Just stay in touch with your healthcare provider and trust that your baby will be coming soon enough.
This is it! Your baby is now fully developed and ready to greet the world.
Up until now, you’ve been very focused on your labor and delivery. Soon enough, however, the focus will shift to your new baby. What can you expect immediately after delivery?
In a typical delivery, the baby is delivered headfirst and face down, followed shortly by the delivery of the placenta. After the baby is delivered, as long as mom and baby are stable, your baby should be placed in immediate skin-to-skin with you, usually right on your chest. This skin-to-skin contact with your newborn has all kinds of benefits—even if it’s true that your baby can’t really see you all that well yet!
The pediatric team will then do a quick once-over after delivery to make sure your little one is doing alright: this includes checking on their breathing, heart rate, movements, and skin color. If all is well (and it usually is), your baby’s first full exam by a pediatrician will usually happen later that day or the next, depending on the time of delivery.
Your stay in the hospital or birthing facility will depend on many factors—your method of delivery, any medical issues related to the delivery, where you choose to have birth—but most newborns are home within a day or two of their deliveries. This can feel overwhelming, but don’t worry: you can read along with your baby’s weekly development, beginning with Baby Development: Your 1 Week Old Baby.
“Unless a medical complication exists, your baby should be kept in close contact with you in the first hour after birth.”
Reviewed by Dr. Jen Lincoln, April 2020