Labor & Delivery
See our Labor & Delivery Unit
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Our Labor & Delivery Unit includes labor, delivery and recovery (LDR) rooms and state-of-the-art surgical suites for cesarean deliveries. Our maternity suites are spacious, with room for the entire family to welcome your new arrival. We also have a recently remodeled waiting room and reception area.
We support a number of non-medical options for comfort during labor, including:
- Walking during labor
- Breathing balls
- Labor “peanut balls” (peanut-shaped vinyl exercise balls that help relax and open the pelvis of women who are resting in bed or have received epidural anesthesia)
- Relaxation and breathing techniques
- Presence of family and friends and the support of health care providers
Techniques for relaxation and breathing can be learned from classes, books or videos available through UC San Diego’s childbirth classes.
- Narcotic: Women in labor can receive injections of a narcotic through an IV during labor. The narcotic works quickly and can be given every hour, except immediately before delivery to ensure that its effects will wear off before the baby is born. For some women, this medication takes the edge off and allows them to rest and relax between contractions.
- Nitrous oxide gas: This gas, best known for its use at dentist offices, can be inhaled through a mask during contractions. The gas lessens but does not eliminate the pain of labor. The effect occurs only while the gas is being inhaled and disappears rapidly when the mask is removed. It can be used through delivery.
- Epidural anesthesia: An epidural offers the most complete pain relief during labor and birth. A tiny tube or catheter is placed through a needle into a space (the "epidural space") outside the spinal cord sac in the lower back. The needle is removed and the tubing is taped in place. Similar to an IV, medication is given continuously through the tube during labor and birth. The medication blocks the pain of contractions. Because of the numbness produced by the epidural, a woman with an epidural cannot get out of bed. Most women take the opportunity to get some rest, and we support the use of labor “peanut balls” to help open the pelvis.
Our anesthesiologists are available 24 hours a day to administer pain relief. An anesthesiologist will meet every laboring woman regardless of whether she is planning anesthesia for her birth. There are two reasons for this: to learn of any medical problems in the unlikely event of an emergency, and to answer any questions about the pros and cons of medical approaches to pain relief during labor.
Some women may require an abdominal surgery called a Cesarean section. We maintain our family-centered approach for these deliveries. Your nurse remains with you throughout the preparation, birth, and recovery, and we encourage your spouse or support person to attend the delivery. Read more about planned or emergency C-section deliveries.
Your post-recovery period will be spent in a quiet environment where specialized nurses care for mothers and new babies. Semi-private and private rooms are available. (See Newborn and Postpartum Care for more information.)
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- If this is your first baby, you’ll know you’re in labor when you are having contractions every four minutes that last for 60 seconds each, for more than an hour-long period of time.
- If this is not your first baby, you will recognize that you’re in labor when you start having regular contractions.
- If your water breaks, labor may begin spontaneously. Remember to take note of the time when it broke, the amount of fluid that was released and the color of the fluid. If your contractions do not spontaneously begin, your labor may have to be induced.
- If this is your first baby, call when you are having contractions every four minutes that last 60 seconds each, for more than one hour.
- If this is not your first baby, call as soon as you are having regular contractions.
- If your water has broken, let us know at what time it broke, the amount of fluid that was released and the color of the fluid.
- Also may also need to call if you experience any of the following:
- Intense abdominal pain
- Extreme vomiting
- Contractions or large amounts of watery discharge
- Vaginal bleeding
- Severe headache or swelling all over your body
- If your baby moves less than 10 times in one hour or if your baby is not moving normally.
More Pregnancy & Childbirth FAQs
Learn more about each of these symptoms to help you determine the severity and when it is necessary to call your doctor or health care provider.
If you have been seen by one of UC San Diego Health System’s providers or are at least 20 weeks pregnant, please come directly to the Labor & Delivery Unit on the second floor of the Medical Center in Hillcrest. If you are less than 20 weeks pregnant, please check in with the Emergency Department (ED) first.
Please call ahead before coming in so we can prepare for your arrival. When you call, you will be asked questions about your pregnancy in order to help determine what you should do next.
- If you are the patient of a physician, call 619-543-6600.
- If you are the patient of a midwife, call 619-299-6667.
You will be greeted by a nurse and taken to a triage room in the Labor & Delivery Unit for an evaluation that will determine whether it’s time for you to be admitted.
Stage One begins as soon as the first real contractions begin and lasts until you are fully dilated. During Stage One, you will go through:
- Early labor: from about zero to four centimeters dilated
- Active labor: from about four to eight centimeters dilated
- Transition: from eight centimeters to fully dilated. Transition is typically the most painful stage, but it tends to go quickly.
In Stage Two, your cervix is fully dilated and you begin to push. Stage Two ends with the birth of your baby, and the placenta is delivered during Stage Three.
A doula is a trained volunteer that provides continuous, one-on-one physical, emotional, and informational support to a woman during labor and birth. She provides no medical or nursing care. Since she doesn’t have these responsibilities, or other patients to attend to, she can give her complete attention to being by a woman’s side for the entire length of her labor. Doula care is known to decrease the length of labor, the need for pain medication and reduce the rate of episiotomy and C-section deliveries. You may hire a private doula, who may offer additional services (prenatal visits, after-delivery visits at home) or you may request a doula from our Hearts and Hands Volunteer Doula Program. Ask your doctor or midwife for more information.
You may have as many as you want, as long as your care is not compromised.
Your plan of care will be specifically modeled to your unique situation. If you are healthy and are having a normal spontaneous labor, you will most likely be encouraged to eat small amounts of high-energy food and drink lots of liquids. In such cases, we usually encourage you to listen to your body. If you are being induced, however, or if there is any concern that you may have to have a cesarean section, you may be limited to ice chips. In some cases, it is recommended that nothing be consumed by mouth during labor.
Sometimes, if labor has not begun on its own, doctors use certain medicines to make a woman’s labor start so she can deliver her baby vaginally. This is known as “labor induction.”
The most common reason for inducing labor is that a pregnancy has gone two weeks or more past the due date. When this happens, the baby may start to get too big and it may not be able to get enough food from inside your body. Your doctor may also recommend induction if:
- You have high blood pressure or diabetes
- Your water breaks, but you aren’t having contractions
- You have an infection in your uterus
- There isn’t enough amniotic fluid around your baby
There are several ways to induce labor. Toward the end of pregnancy, the cervix, which is the opening to the uterus (or womb), begins to soften and may even open up a little. If your doctor doesn’t see these changes happening, he or she may administer a medication in your vagina near your cervix to help your cervix start to soften and open up.
Your doctor may also break your water by using a finger to separate your cervix from the membranes (tissues) that surround your baby’s head. This often makes labor start. Your doctor will watch you closely and, when you’re ready, will give you a medicine called oxytocin that will start your contractions and help them to become stronger and to come at regular intervals.
Sometimes it can take two or three days to induce labor, but it usually takes less time. It may take more time if you’re being induced really early or if it’s your first baby. Because medications that induce labor can produce very strong contractions and might upset your stomach, it’s recommended that you do not eat very much before coming to the hospital. Be sure to tell your doctor if you need help with the pain. In most cases, labor induction goes well and you can deliver your baby vaginally.
All our postpartum nurses have been trained by our lactation consultants. If you need further assistance with breastfeeding, one of our lactation consultants will be happy to provide assistance in the privacy of your own room. See Lactation Service for more information.
You will normally stay two nights if you have a vaginal delivery, and four nights if you have a cesarean section. See more information about discharge times in Postpartum Care.
There are no specific designated visiting hours in the Labor & Delivery Unit, so you may have visitors at any time. See more more information about visitors in Postpartum Care.
Yes, all postpartum rooms have wireless Internet access.
Ask your doctor or health care provider about this in advance, but typically, you do not need to bring any of your own medications or supplements to the hospital.
More Pregnancy & Childbirth FAQs