Before going into labor, it's a good idea to know what to expect during childbirth. The experience can be intense, not to mention exhausting. Having some basic information can help make you feel more prepared.
Once you are in the labor and delivery area, your cervix will be checked regularly to see how close you are to delivery. Your contractions and your baby's heartbeat will also be monitored. Once your cervix has dilated, or opened, to four centimeters, you are officially in "active labor," and an epidural may be given if you want one.
When the cervix is dilated to 10 centimeters, contractions usually become more frequent and intense. You will likely be encouraged to push during your contractions once the baby has moved into the birth canal. After the baby is delivered, the placenta will also need to be delivered (this can take up to half an hour). When this is done, any extensive tears that occurred during delivery will be sewn up.
(For more details on childbirth, including information on possible complications, click Labor and Delivery.)