Childbirth

What to Expect in a Labor for First Pregnancy

Want to know what to expect during labor for first-time moms? Find 10 helpful tips and tricks for your upcoming delivery here to have as positive a labor experience as possible.

Your first pregnancy is an experience you will never forget. It’s one filled with all kinds of emotions — excitement, anxiety, uncertainty, joy and so much more. No two pregnancies are the same, and it can be overwhelming to discover you are pregnant for the first time — whether planned or unplanned.

Once you accept this life-changing journey, you have a lot to think about. One of the things you may be most worried about is giving birth for the first time. You’ve probably heard a lot about how childbirth is difficult to understand unless you’ve experienced it, and this can be frustrating and nerve-wracking for your first-time childbirth experience. How do you find out what to expect during labor for first-time moms to be as prepared as you possibly can?

We know that there are many concerns you may have about your first pregnancy, labor and delivery, and we are here to help. While the information below should not be taken as medical advice and only your personal obstetrician can help you best prepare for your first-time labor and delivery experience, there are a few important things you should know for your first pregnancy. We’ve gathered some important tips about labor for first-time moms to help you feel better prepared for your upcoming childbirth experience.

10 Things to Know About Labor and Delivery for First-Time Moms

1. Consider hiring an additional delivery professional.

Every first-time mother should be in frequent contact and have set prenatal appointments with her personal obstetrician. Your doctor will always be the one who can best answer your questions about what labor is like for first-time moms and what you can expect from your personal pregnancy experience.

While your doctor and qualified nurses will be present during your delivery, you might also think about hiring an additional professional such as a doula. A doula will serve as your assistant and guide through every step of your labor and play an important role in preparing you for this experience ahead of time. These professionals often offer prenatal education and emotional support for mothers during labor; a doula can serve as your advocate and your liaison between your doctors and you, especially when you are experiencing the more difficult parts of your labor.

2. Don’t forget your birthing classes!

One of the best ways to hear first-time labor and delivery stories and know what to expect during your first-time birth experience is by signing up for a birthing class. The people who teach birthing classes are experienced in the labor and delivery process and often work with first-time expectant mothers such as you. During these classes, you will learn breathing techniques and birthing positions, as well as other medication-free tactics to lower your pain during labor. Even if you decide to have a medicated first-baby labor, having the knowledge gained in a birthing class is invaluable.

3. Make sure you can recognize active labor.

Because this pregnancy will be your first-time labor experience, everything that happens will be new to you. It’s for this reason that many more first-time mothers arrive too early to the hospital and are sent home. To avoid this inconvenience, familiarize yourself with the signs of early and active labor. It’s normal to have early labor contractions (called Braxton-Hicks) for hours or even a few days before active labor begins. You should be able to time your contractions and know to contact your medical provider only after your water breaks or your contractions are one minute long, come every five minutes, and continue that pattern for an hour.

4. The risk of needing a cesarean-section is lower for first-time moms.

When you hear that the rate of C-sections in the U.S. is more than 30 percent, you may worry that you will have to have a C-section yourself, even if it is not planned. First-time-mother labor statistics show that women who aren’t carrying multiples, hit full term, and go into labor spontaneously have a C-section rate of less than 15 percent. As long as you stay in contact with your doctor throughout your pregnancy and it proceeds healthily, there is a very small chance that you will have a C-section for your first-time birth.

5. Labor pain will vary from woman to woman.

If you’re worried about giving birth for the first time, you are likely thinking about the pain that you will feel during your delivery. Childbirth is no joke; you will feel pain from your contractions and actual delivery process. However, what that pain feels like is different for everyone, and yours may be worse or easier than other women. We recommend being prepared for anything and being open to medication, even if it’s not in your original plan. It’s hard to know what your labor will feel like until it happens, and you may end up deciding that you need more medication than planned. Making this choice does not make you weak; it only makes you human!

6. Try different labor positions.

Labor can last a long time, especially for first-time mothers. You’re not expected to stay in one position the whole time. If you think you’ll be lying down from the moment you first feel contractions, you’re mistaken. Doctors today recommend all kinds of labor positions, including walking around during your contractions, in order for you to be the most comfortable you can be. If your first pregnancy labor requires you to change positions every few hours to help your labor progress, that’s completely normal.

7. It’s 100 percent normal to poop during labor.

Yes, the rumors are true — you may defecate and urinate during labor. The muscles that you use to push your baby out are the same muscles you use when you go to the bathroom. Your rectum is compressed when your child enters the birthing canal, and these two things combined can cause you to poop on the labor table. Don’t worry; it’s 100 percent normal, and your doctor and nurses have seen it all before. They won’t bat an eye, and it’s nothing to be embarrassed about. In fact, it actually means that you’re pushing correctly during your first-time labor.

8. You don’t need to look perfect.

It’s normal to have unrealistic expectations about labor and delivery if you are first-time expectant mother. You may imagine yourself going through labor quickly without breaking a sweat, making sure to put on makeup and do your hair so those delivery photos turn out impeccably. Many women worry about little things like painting their toes and shaving their genitals to ensure they look nice during labor.

The fact is: Childbirth is messy and exhausting, and you will look the part. Don’t worry if you don’t have the chance to trim your pubic hair or shave your legs before labor; your doctor has seen it all before, and anyone who is in the room with you during your labor should be more worried about your and your baby’s health than what your private parts look like. In fact, shaving your genitals before labor can actually cause irritation and pain when it comes time to delivery your baby.

9. Labor time varies, but it’s often longer when giving birth for the first time.

Every woman’s labor and delivery experience is different, and it can be hard to anticipate how long your first-time-pregnancy labor may take. However, generally speaking, women going through their first labor and delivery process often take longer than those who have given birth before. First-time labor statistics report that first-time mothers generally experience six to 12 hours of labor after they are dilated four centimeters, with an average length of 7.7 hours.

Don’t worry: Your doctor and nurses will be there every step of the way to ensure your labor is progressing as it should.

10. Be ready to be your own advocate.

Finally, one of the most important tips when giving birth for the first time is remembering that you are in charge. When you’re in the middle of labor, it’s easy to give way to the recommendations of doctors and loved ones who have been through this process before.  However, you are the star of this show, so to say, and it’s important that your wishes and birth plan are respected in every labor stage. Don’t be afraid to speak up for yourself, and talk in depth with your labor partner about how they can serve that purpose if you are otherwise busy during labor. This is your first-time labor, mama; although there is a lot to learn, you are ultimately the one in charge. Good luck!