Labor and Delivery for Dummies: What to Expect on D-Day

Hello all,

If you’re a soon-to-be Momma, I know you have so many questions about what will go down when it’s time for your little one to arrive. Due to my experience as a labor and delivery nurse, I had somewhat of an advantage in this area. However, no work experience can quite prepare you for your own delivery. Here are some things you need to know to prepare for D-Day.

1.) Have your bags packed at least 4 weeks before your due date, but don’t over-pack

Always have your delivery bag and your baby’s diaper bag packed and near the door. The average amount of days that a first-time mom stays in the hospital post vaginal delivery is 1.5-2 days (this is not including your stay prior to delivery). For a c-section, plan on staying at least 2-3 days after, pending there are no complications with you or the baby. I’d suggest packing some gowns and PJs for after delivery, because hospital gowns are not comfy and very awkward. If you plan to pump, I’d bring your own pump with you as well.

I know the temptation to pack all your baby’s cute newborn clothes is strong, but resist the urge. During the stay, it is hospital policy that the baby wears the hospital’s gowns and blankets. Try to think of it as less washing for you when you get home. All you truly need to pack for your baby is:

  • 2 take-home outfits (in case of an accident or one doesn’t fit)
  • 1 heavy blanket
  • 1-2 muslin blankets
  • diapers
  • wipes
  • bottles
  • formula, and
  • a REAR FACING car seat

Adjust how much you need for each item by how many hours from the hospital you live. Usually, the hospital gives you a generous load of goodies like formula, nipples, wipes, and diapers so I wouldn’t pack too many of these items.

2.) Prepare to be poked and prodded

From the moment you arrive to the hospital, whether planned or unplanned, you can expect to be poked quite a few times. Your nurse will insert an IV upon arrival to the floor and it will the stay there the majority of the hospital stay. You will also have labs drawn at least twice during your visit, checking things such as your blood levels (HGB, HCT), blood type, and checking for infection (WBC). In addition, you will have a urinary catheter placed after your epidural (which you won’t feel) or before your c-section.

3.) Epidural or No Epidural?

I can’t say that I wasn’t scared to have an epidural. After all, a needle does go into your back. However, when your pain goes from a 5 to an 11.9 on a scale of 1-10, that needle will feel like a pinprick in comparison. My advice on this decision is to play it by ear, but do not wait too late. Once you reach a dilation of around 7-8 cm, it may be too late and you will have to power through the pain until after delivery.

4.) Fetal Monitors

Odds are, you will have fetal monitoring done at least once or twice at your prenatal appointments before you deliver. When you are admitted to the hospital, you will have two monitors placed on your belly. The Toco measures characteristics of your contractions and is placed near the top of your uterus (AKA, the fundus). The intensity and frequency of your contractions will be displayed on a fetal monitoring strip. For the other monitor, the nurse will use ultrasound jelly and place it on your stomach in an area that will pick up the baby’s heart rate. This will also be seen on the fetal monitoring strip. Your baby’s heart rate should be around 120-160 beats per minute, give or take a little. Your nurses and doctors watch for patterns in the baby’s heart rate and contractions to make educated decisions about how to care for you.

Fetal Monitoring Strip
Fetal Monitoring

5.) Vaginal/Cervical Exams

You are probably all too familiar with having vaginal exams at your OB appointments. They are not fun, but are very necessary in the delivery process. So what is the nurse or doctor looking for? Three words: Dilation, Effacement, and Station. These characteristics tell the doctor when it’s time to push.

Cervical Dilation Tool
Dilation and Effacement Chart
Fetal Station

Yes it’s true, the labor and delivery process is not all kicks and giggles, but so worth it in the end. I hope this has helped you get a little prepared for the big day. Please stay tuned for my next post featuring what you should know about postpartum.

Warm regards,



 [Photograph]. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Cervical Effacement and Dilation [Drawing]. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Epidural Placement for Labour [Drawing]. (n.d.). Retrieved from

External Fetal Heart Rate Monitoring [Drawing]. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Fetal Station [Drawing]. (2007). Retrieved from

The Display [Drawing]. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create your website with
Get started
%d bloggers like this: