What to expect during your time at the hospital

by Kaiser Permanente |
Nurse helping new mom breastfeed baby in hospital.

Throughout your labor and birthing experience, you’ll receive care from a highly trained team of clinicians. This generally includes an obstetrician, a certified nurse-midwife, and labor and delivery nurses. Other specialists such as certified registered nurse anesthetists, anesthesiologists, family practice obstetricians, or obstetrics residents may be called in as needed.

Your safety is our highest priority. For this reason, we take shifts working on labor and delivery. This allows us to be rested and ready to provide you and your baby with the care you need.

IV fluids

Many people need intravenous (IV) fluids or medications during labor. An intravenous (IV) catheter is placed to facilitate this process. A nurse inserts a very small plastic tube (catheter) into a vein, usually in your arm or hand. It helps your care team administer fluids or medications during the process of labor, delivery, and recovery. 

IV access helps if:

  • Labor must be induced
  • You cannot drink fluids due to nausea and vomiting
  • You need medications for diabetes high blood pressure, or other conditions
  • You need help to manage pain
  • You have heavy bleeding and need IV fluids or a blood transfusion

Your IV will likely be inserted soon after you arrive at the hospital.

Some people have concerns about having an IV when in labor. When you don’t need fluids or medications through the IV, it will be “saline locked.” This means it’s capped off by a small section of tubing filled with salt water. Once you need the IV, it’s attached to fluids or medicines on an IV pole. This pole can be moved around the room with you.

Fetal monitoring

External fetal monitors allow your care team to track your baby’s health. Plastic monitors, or transducers, are attached to a stretchy belt around your belly. They record your contractions and your baby’s heart rate.

Some babies don’t need to be continuously monitored early in the birth process. Others need closer monitoring. As your labor progresses, your clinician may recommend more frequent monitoring to make sure your baby stays safe.

Other monitoring techniques may be recommended depending on individual circumstances.


It’s important to protect your baby from Group B Streptococcus, a type of bacteria that some   women have in and around their vagina. It is not a sexually transmitted infection. Just as you have normal bacteria growing in your skin and mouth, you have normal growing bacteria in or around your vagina. This bacteria can be dangerous to newborns. If tests show that you carry the bacteria, you’ll receive a dose of antibiotics in your IV during active labor. You may receive more doses every 4 to 24 hours until your baby is born.


If your bag of water doesn’t break on its own, your labor isn’t progressing, or labor is being induced, your clinician may recommend an amniotomy. In this procedure, your clinician breaks the amniotic sac using a plastic device shaped like a crochet hook.

An amniotomy might help make your contractions stronger if your labor isn’t progressing. In some cases, clinicians use it to evaluate the amniotic fluid for signs of infection, bleeding or meconium. Finding meconium, your baby’s first bowel movement, may be a sign of stress. If it’s present, babies need closer monitoring when they take their first breaths. For this reason, a pediatric nurse or clinician will attend your baby’s birth.

These procedures, devices and monitors are tools to help your care team attend to you and your baby as safely and swiftly as possible. They will do their best to keep you informed at every step. If you don’t understand what’s happening or want clarification, feel free to ask.

This article has been created by a national group of Kaiser Permanente ob-gyns, certified nurse-midwives, pediatricians, lactation consultants and other specialists who came together to provide you with the best pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and newborn information.

Some of the content is used and adapted with permission of The Permanente Medical Group.