Prenatal Health — Labor and Delivery

Childbirth is an exciting and sometimes unpredictable adventure. Your experience with labor and delivery begins with preparation.

There are many ways expectant couples can prepare for delivery. Some may choose to attend classes, read books, or hire a doula (personal labor attendant) to assist in navigating this process. A tour of Abbott Northwestern's Birth Center is highly recommended as this will allow you to familiarize yourself with the facilities. Tours are available individually or as a part of prenatal classes with Allina.

It’s the big day. Or is it?

Sometimes it is difficult to recognize whether the sensations you are experiencing are in fact labor. Some signs to look for:

  • Contractions or tightening lasting 60-90 seconds, recurring every 5 minutes, with this pattern lasting for an hour
  • Leakage of fluid, sometimes a small trickle instead of a big gush
  • Bright red vaginal bleeding (bloody show)
  • Nausea or diarrhea
  • Pain in back, hips, or thighs


Labor is often a long process. Early labor can occur over several hours or, in some cases, several days before the transition to active labor. Active labor is more predictable and may include the desire for pain management.

Those women desiring natural childbirth are more successful when they have prepared in advance. Sometimes, despite the best-intentioned plans, there can be unforeseen obstacles during the course of labor. Just as each newborn is a unique individual, so is each labor journey. We strive to approach labor as a collaborative process between women and their health care team.

Water Birth and Labor in Water

Labor in water has been shown to be beneficial in many ways. Abbott Northwestern Hospital has separate tubs used for labor and for delivery by patients who meet appropriate criteria. We are happy to offer and encourage this as a way to avoid other more invasive pain management techniques for our mothers.

Water labor needs to be distinguished from water birth, actual delivery while submersed. Unfortunately, the current medical literature does not distinguish between the two when assessing the safety of water birth. For the newborn, water birth does present some very infrequent but potentially serious risks. Our first priority is the safety and well-being of our patients. After careful examination of risks and benefits for both the mother and baby, we find ourselves in agreement with the American Academy of Pediatrics:

The safety and efficacy of water birth for newborns has not been established. There is no convincing evidence of benefit to the newborn, but some concern for harm. Therefore underwater birth should be considered an experimental procedure that should not be performed except within the context of an appropriately designed randomized controlled trial after informed parental consent.

We welcome further discussion with you regarding laboring in the water and water birth.