Labor is a three-stage process leading up to birth. The first stage begins when a pregnant woman's uterus contracts and her cervix dilates. The uterine contractions that occur with labor are caused by the hormones oxytocin and prostaglandin. During the second stage of labor, the baby is pushed through the vagina. The third stage of labor is the delivery of the placenta and fetal membranes, which happens just a few minutes after the baby is born. The length and experience of labor varies considerably among women.

Your doctor uses certain guidelines to determine if your labor is progressing normally. Occasionally, labor does not progress normally, and medical assistance or a cesarean section may be needed. If labor begins before the 37th week of pregnancy, it is considered preterm. If you have any symptoms of labor before the 37th week, you should call your doctor immediately.

Explore the Health Topics below for helpful information regarding labor and delivery.

Signs of Pre-Term Labor

If you think you may be in labor, please go immediately to Rapides Women’s and Children’s Hospital Labor & Delivery to receive immediate medical care. 
Signs of pre-term labor may include:

  • Contractions (a tightening sensation in the abdomen similar to menstrual cramping)
  • Low, dull backache
  • A sensation of pelvic pressure
  • Diarrhea
  • Vaginal spotting or bleeding
  • Watery vaginal discharge
  • An increase in vaginal discharge

Labor & Delivery Antenatal Clinic

Located conveniently on the first floor of Rapides Women’s and Children’s Hospital in the Labor & Delivery Unit, our L&D Antenatal Clinic provides non-stress tests (NSTs) and various antenatal monitoring for such conditions as high blood pressure, diabetes and high risk pregnancies.

Our clinic staff also provides amniocentesis in conjunction with our perinatologists. This clinic is staffed by an experienced L&D nurse who provides on-going monitoring and patient education throughout your pregnancy.

Mom's Choice

Moms know best. That’s the idea behind the “Mom’s Choice” program, which lets new moms choose to keep their babies in the room with them throughout the hospital stay – or, lets them get a bit of well-deserved rest by taking advantage of the hospital’s full-service newborn nursery.

Moms who choose to keep their babies with them will have the benefit of regular visits from a dedicated nursery nurse who is specifically trained to take care of mom and baby. Everything, including weighing, measuring, medications and visits from the baby’s pediatrician will take place at mom’s bedside. Expectant mothers will be asked during the admission process whether they want to keep their baby in the room with them, or use the newborn nursery – however, they can change their mind at any time during their stay.

Newborn Assessment Center

Jaundice is a common condition that occurs in newborns when Bilirubin builds up in the circulatory system. While this can be temporary and may resolve on its own, excessive levels of Bilirubin can lead to kernicterus, or brain damage, if not identified and treated immediately.

Rapides Women’s and Children’s Hospital is committed to the prevention of kernicterus, and offers free clinic screenings for our newborns after discharge home. Our clinic is located conveniently on the second floor of RWCH, where lab results are available to parents and pediatricians in about 15 minutes. No appointment is required, and the clinic is available 7 days a week from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Please check in with the registration clerks on the first floor when you arrive, or if you come after hours, staff members at the Information Desk will assist you.