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Labor and delivery are the last stages of pregnancy and the process through which a baby is born. During this time, your cervix is monitored carefully, as is the baby about to be born. While labor and delivery are often exhausting, your healthcare providers will do everything they can to help you through this process.
It's important to remember that labor and delivery are often intense, so it's good to be mentally prepared for the possible events that can happen. It is also a good idea to get regular prenatal checkups and take good care of yourself and your baby during your pregnancy. Women who take good care of themselves usually experience fewer complications during and after labor and delivery, and often give birth to healthier babies.
Once you are in the labor and delivery area, your labor partner can wait there with you. Two monitors may be placed around your abdomen (stomach). One will measure your contractions, and the other will monitor your baby's heartbeat. A nurse may draw some blood and give you an intravenous (IV) line. Your cervix should be checked regularly to measure how close you are to beginning the actual delivery. If you are having trouble urinating, you may be given a catheter, which is a small plastic tube that's inserted into your bladder.
For some women, it is normal to feel sick and even to vomit during this part of labor. This is due to the changes the body is undergoing during this time. For this reason, many women eat nothing and drink only clear liquids during labor and delivery. Walking around or changing positions in your bed may make you feel better. Your healthcare professionals can give you additional suggestions to help you feel more comfortable.
Once your cervix has dilated, or opened, to 4 centimeters, you are officially in "active labor." In this stage of labor, you can now receive an epidural if you want one. After this point, your healthcare provider should monitor your progress, such as your contractions and how quickly your cervix dilates. If you do not progress through labor as expected, your doctor may help you do so with medications or other methods (see Assisted Delivery).