Labor and birth

As your pregnancy advances, you’ll start thinking more and more about labor and delivery and what it will be like.

At Edward-Elmhurst Health, we prepare you with information, support and answers to your questions, so you feel good about what’s next. Read on to learn about everything from the signs of labor, to what to bring to the hospital, to what to expect on delivery day.

Signs of labor

If you've never given birth before, the onset of true labor isn't always easy to identify, and events leading up it can drag on for days. It’s common for labor to start any time between two weeks before and two weeks after your due date. So how will you know when you’re in labor?

Most expectant mothers feel mild contractions before they're actually in labor. Braxton Hicks contractions are generally sporadic and stop if you rest or change positions. True labor contractions, on the other hand, get longer, stronger and closer together as time goes on, and usually "wrap around" from your back to your belly.

Labor may be nearing if you notice one or more of these signs:

  • Lightening: This happens when your baby's head "drops" down into your pelvis. Your belly will suddenly look lower and you'll have an easier time catching your breath than you did when your baby was crowding your lungs. The downside, though, is that your baby is now pressing on your bladder, increasing the need to urinate. For first-time moms, lightening usually occurs a few weeks before birth. For veteran moms, it may not happen until labor has begun.
  • Bloody show: If you have blood-tinged or brownish vaginal discharge, it means your cervix has dilated enough to expel the mucus plug that sealed it for the last nine months. This is a good sign, but active labor may still be days away.
  • Your baby moves less: Women often notice that their baby is less active the day before labor kicks in. No one is sure why this might be, but one theory is that the baby is simply saving his/her energy for the big event. If you notice decreased movement that’s concerning, contact your doctor.
  • Your water breaks: When the amniotic sac ruptures, you'll feel fluid leak from your vagina in a trickle or a gush. For most women, contractions follow shortly thereafter. But even if they don't, let your doctor know as soon as you think your water has broken. In about 1 in 10 women, contractions don't begin on their own within 24 hours. If this happens, your labor may need to be induced, since the likelihood of infection increases once your baby's sterile bubble bursts. For other women, the amniotic sac doesn't rupture until labor is well underway.
  • Diarrhea: If you feel a frequent urge to empty your bowels and your stools are looser than normal, labor may be imminent.
  • Nesting: There's no scientific proof linking it to the onset of labor, but plenty of moms-to-be are gripped by a sudden urge to "nest" — to vacuum the entire house at 3 a.m. or put those finishing touches on the nursery — right before labor begins.

The symptoms of pre-term labor are similar to the symptoms of labor that begins at term. If you notice any of the signs listed above or feel strong, regular contractions before 37 weeks, call your doctor right away.

Also, if you experience any problem that feels unusual, including increasing pelvic pressure, vaginal bleeding or heavy discharge, or a marked decrease in your baby's activity, contact your doctor immediately or go to emergency room. Know the pregnancy warning signs.

What to bring to the hospital

Here are suggestions for what to bring to the hospital. We will supply you with a gown, slippers, disposable underwear and basic toiletries. We encourage you to pre-register for your hospital stay so you can quickly settle into your private birthing suite when you arrive at the hospital.

Paperwork/general items

  • Driver’s license or another form of photo ID
  • Health insurance card
  • The pediatrician’s name and contact information
  • Contact list of family and friends who you want to announce the birth
  • Cell phone, camera
  • Money for parking
  • Your personal birthing plan (if you made one)

Items for mom

  • Nightgown/pajamas
  • A bathrobe and slippers
  • Bra and nursing bra, breast pads
  • Socks (several pair)
  • Underwear (several pair)
  • Toiletries (toothbrush, toothpaste, hair brush, hair ties, lip balm, lotion, deodorant)
  • Comfortable, loose-fitting outfit to wear home

Comfort items

  • Books, magazines
  • Snacks
  • Music
  • Inspirational items (rocks, crystals, lockets, photographs)
  • Massage rollers, massage oils to relieve back pain during labor
  • The object you've chosen to use to focus on during labor (the "focal point")

Items for baby

  • A going-home outfit
  • A receiving blanket
  • Warm clothing to wear home/heavy bunting or blanket (if cold weather)
  • Baby socks
  • Baby hat (especially for cold weather climates)
  • A properly installed car seat
  • A few diapers and wipes in case you need them during the trip home

View our pre-labor checklist

When to go to the hospital

Once labor has started in earnest, when should you go to the hospital? Every situation is different, so talk with your doctor ahead of your delivery day about the best plan for you. In general, you should head to the hospital when your contractions are too painful to talk through, last 60 seconds or more, and have been coming 3-5 minutes apart for at least an hour. Still, if you aren’t sure, call your doctor.

If you have not yet pre-registered for your hospital stay, your obstetrician can give you a form to fill out, or you can complete your pre-registration online.

Getting to the hospital

Getting to our Family Birthing Centers is easy.

Edward Hospital is located at 801 South Washington Street in Naperville.

  • If you arrive during the daytime (before 9 p.m.), park in the North Parking Deck and enter through the North hospital entrance.
  • If you arrive at night (after 9 p.m.), enter through the South Emergency Room entrance.
  • Stop at the information desk.
  • Proceed to the Labor & Delivery entrance on the first floor.

View a map of Edward campus

Elmhurst Hospital is located at 155 E. Brush Hill Road in Elmhurst.

  • Park in the “Green” parking lot.
  • Go to the East Entrance.
  • Take the East Elevator to the third floor.
  • Exit the East Elevator to your right and follow the signs to the Family Birthing Center.

View a map of Elmhurst campus

Delivery day

Each woman's labor and delivery experience is unique. At Edward-Elmhurst, your birthing team will work with you to meet your individual needs—from the minute you arrive through your entire birthing experience.

Private birthing suites

When you have your baby with us, you get your own private birthing suite. It’s as close as you get to the comforts of home, combined with expert medical care and technology, for a first-class experience. Your luxurious, modern suite comes with a private bathroom, a flat screen TV, and a couch that converts into a bed for your partner’s comfort.

Each room has a birthing (exercise) ball and a comfortable chair for you to use during labor if you desire. For those seeking additional comfort and enhanced relief during labor, some suites come equipped with whirlpool/bath tubs with Jacuzzi jets while others have walk-in showers with hand-held wands.

While you’re here, smart pumps deliver, monitor and balance your medications for safe administration. Also, ID badges track when your doctors and nurses enter and leave your room to ensure you receive the assistance and attention you need.

What to expect in labor and delivery

If you have a vaginal delivery, you will stay in your private birthing suite during delivery and recovery. If it is necessary for your doctor to deliver your baby by c-section, you’ll be taken to the operating room within the maternity unit for the procedure.

During labor, we’ll help you achieve the comfort level you desire. Some women give birth with mild pain or discomfort, controlled by comfort measures, relaxation and breathing techniques. Others prefer medication to control pain.

Our labor and delivery nurses are trained to assist you with various techniques, such as use of birthing balls, warm showers, massage, position changes and relaxation. If you desire pain medication, such as analgesics or epidurals, our anesthesiologists are available 24 hours a day to meet your needs for pain relief.

Elmhurst Hospital is the first in DuPage County to offer nitrous oxide as a pain relief option for women in labor, and it has been adopted by both the hospital’s OB-GYNs and the Elmhurst Clinic midwives. Unlike systemic drugs that can cause unwanted effects, nitrous oxide (a tasteless, odorless gas inhaled through a mask) is considered safe to use during labor and can be beneficial for both pain relief and anxiety relief. It also has a quick onset and quickly exits both the mother’s and baby’s system.

Learn what happens after your baby is born

Visitor information

It’s your choice who you want to visit you in the hospital. The number of people you can elect to be in the room during labor, actual delivery or c-section delivery differs by hospital. Please speak with your nurse about each hospital’s particular requirements, and make your decision with your physician or midwife.

Please review our current visitor policy.

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Pregnancy and baby locations

[Updated January 2022]