Posts Tagged ‘contractions’

What is a fetal nonstress test?

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012

The nonstress test is a way of monitoring your baby’s health through your skin. This is not an invasive test, meaning it is not performed internally. A nonstress test allows your health care provider to check if your baby’s heart rate pattern is one seen in healthy babies. It checks to see that the heart rate increases when the baby moves around.

The nonstress test usually is performed between 38 and 42 weeks of pregnancy, especially when you’re past your due date, to make sure all’s well with the baby. It can be done as early as the 27th week of pregnancy, if your health care provider feels there are reasons to take a closer look.

For this test, you will sit with knees and back partially elevated, sometimes with a cushion under the right hip to help shift your uterus to the left. Sensitive electrodes (connected to monitors) are placed on your abdomen over conducting jelly. The electrodes can sense the fetal heart rate (FHR) and the presence and length of any uterine contractions. Usually, the results of this test appear on a computer screen, or they are printed out. If there are contractions, the external monitors will show them but they won’t be able to tell how strong they are.

If there is no fetal heart rate increase from being moved around after 30 – 40 minutes, your baby may be napping. Seriously, babies do go to sleep! If that’s the case, you will be given something sweet to drink or a small meal which may perk your baby up and get him moving. If that doesn’t work, the use of fetal acoustic stimulation (sending loud noise to the baby) may work as may gently placing your hands on your abdomen and moving the baby from side to side. Wake up little one!

If your baby still is not as responsive as your health care provider would like to see, you may move on to either a biophyiscal profile (taking a closer look with detailed ultrasound), a stress test (testing to see how your baby responds to contractions) or even delivery.

What is Pitocin?

Monday, June 25th, 2012

iv-bagPitocin is a medicine that acts like oxytocin, a hormone your body makes to help start labor contractions.  When used, it is administered in the hospital by an IV drip and the dosage is regulated, gradually increasing until labor progresses well.

Contractions, which signal the beginning of childbirth, are when the muscles of your uterus get tight and then relax. They help push your baby out of your uterus (womb). If you’ve ever had a baby, you know and never will forget what contractions are like. But if you’re a first time mom, you might not be too sure in early labor if what you’re experiencing is the real deal.  You can read about contractions and the different stages of labor on our web site.

Sometimes labor begins but doesn’t move along as well as doctors like.  A woman’s water may have broken, but contractions have not started.  Labor may have slowed down or the contractions just may not be strong enough to move labor forward. In these cases, health care providers may use Pitocin to strengthen the contractions.  Other times it may be medically necessary, for the health of the baby or the mother, to induce labor that has not yet begun. This is often the case with women who have reached 42 weeks gestation. Giving the mother Pitocin can induce labor.

If you’re pregnant and your doctor wants to give you something to help your labor progress, you should start having labor contractions shortly after you begin Pitocin. Depending on the dosage you receive, it can make your contractions very strong and may lower your baby’s heart rate.  So, your provider will carefully monitor your baby’s heart rate for changes and adjust the amount of Pitocin you get, if needed.

Epidural block

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011

When it comes to managing labor pain, some expecting moms prefer to deal with the pain of childbirth naturally, using breathing, massage, meditation and relaxation techniques. Others decide to use pain medication to help manage labor pain. One option for pain medication during labor is an epidural block (or epidural). It’s among the most effective methods of pain relief during labor.

An epidural is an injection into the lower back, which numbs the lower body. While Mom is still awake and alert, the medication blocks the pain of the contractions. It can be given during active labor or just before a cesarean section.  As with every procedure, however, there are risks and benefits to having an epidural. If it is something you are considering, read more about it, including pros and cons, at this link.

Labor pain affects each woman differently. Some women have mild discomfort. Others experience intense pain. If you try natural childbirth and you have a long and difficult labor, you may think about using medication for pain after you have been at it for hours. It’s okay to change your mind. Don’t feel like you gave up or let your baby down. Only you know how strong the pain feels. It’s okay to talk with your provider about medication and to do what you think is best.

BTW, if you’re a lover of body art, most health care providers will give an epidural to a woman with a tattoo on her lower back. But they may not if the tattoo is recent and still fresh. Read our earlier post on tattoos and pregnancy.

Making the best of bedrest

Thursday, September 17th, 2009

knit-scarvesSometimes a health provider tells a pregnant women to stay in bed because she is having spotting, early contractions or other signs of preterm labor.

Both mom and the provider want to do everything they can to help get the baby to term.

But let’s face it, bedrest can be BORING! Women knit, catch up on their reading, watch a lot of TV, or visit online communities like Share Your Story from the March of Dimes and Sidelines.

Some women get very anxious when they’re on bedrest. They worry about everything they feel in their bodies. And with so much time on their hands, their thoughts race.

A small new study has found that music may relieve anxiety. In the study, women on bedrest chose from a selection of slow, soothing music provided by the researchers. Anxiety levels in women who received “music therapy” decreased.

This study reminds us that sometimes medical research confirms what we already suspect. So if you are on bedrest or if you know someone who is, play some restful slow music. It might help.

False of true labor? Braxton-Hicks

Thursday, September 17th, 2009

pregnant-coupleIn your early 3rd trimester, you may notice your uterus suddenly feeling tight and hard.  This can be caused by “practice contractions” or Braxton-Hicks contractions.  They’re usually painless but sometimes can be fairly uncomfortable (not wickedly painful) and they may kick up more when you’re active and then calm down when you rest.  They also can appear more often in the evening, especially if you’re dehydrated – so keep chugging that water.

How can you tell if these contractions are false labor or the real thing? Here are some general guidelines.  In false labor, Braxton-Hicks contractions occur irregularly, they don’t get closer over time.  The contractions may stop when you walk, change position or rest.  In false labor, the contractions are relatively weak and stay that way, or there may be a few strong ones followed by weak ones.  In false labor, pain usually is felt in the lower abdomen and groin.

In true labor, the contractions will start forming a pattern, coming at regular intervals, getting closer together and lasting 30-90 seconds.  Be sure to time any contractions you have if they persist. True labor contractions won’t go away, no matter what you do.  The contractions will get steadily stronger.  The pain from these contractions usually starts in the back and wraps around to the front.

OK, all that being said, there are lots of us who don’t follow these generalizations.  With both of my labors, I never felt any pain in my back – for Anne, that’s all she felt!  Painful contractions don’t always signal true labor and painless ones aren’t always false.  Oh, and what you experienced in your first pregnancy may not be at all what you experience with a second one.  So, if you’re having some kind of contractions and think you might be in labor at any time during your pregnancy, call your doc or midwife.  Call especially if your water breaks, you have vaginal bleeding, you’re in constant pain with no relief, you have fever or chills, or the baby seems to be moving less.

The day Hannah arrived, the conclusion

Friday, September 4th, 2009

75460078915_0_albAlthough it would have made a great story, I didn’t deliver in the ambulance.  Sorry to disappoint.

Now where was I?

We arrived at some random hospital. We didn’t tour this facility. My midwife did not have privileges here. This was not the plan. I was quickly pulled out of the ambulance and rushed inside. I caught eyes with an elderly woman in the corridor who stepped to the side as we wheeled past. She looked horrified. Was I that bad?

The ER staff stood in a line waiting for me. One of them called out, “how many weeks is she?” I was just shy of thirty seven. I was crying up a storm. Someone chuckled, “oh, take her to L&D then!” Hold on…I’m not having my baby today. I might be sick. A kidney stone perhaps? I have back pain. I threw up. I didn’t shave my legs today. WAIT!

Before I knew it I was off the gurney and standing in what looked like a delivery room. Two nurses were pulling my coat off while asking me for my social security number and health insurance card. I could barely answer them and they were getting frustrated. A short, portly woman with rosy cheeks stepped in. In a soft voice she said, “you have to let us help you. Please answer our questions.” She guided me to the bed and yanked off my winter boots and jeans. She asked me if I was having any bleeding. I asked, “who are you?” She replied, “your doctor.”

Crutches and all, my husband finally found me. He was swarmed with questions and paperwork from the nurses. There must have been at least four people touching me all at once. I was in a hospital gown, there were two monitors strapped over my belly, a blood pressure cuff on my arm, an IV in my hand and the doctor was checking me. “Well, you’re 10 centimeters. You can start pushing whenever you have a contraction.” I almost didn’t believe her.  I felt like the room was spinning. It was loud and bright. I’m not due for another few weeks. Our families don’t know what’s happening. There was no time to call our doula. No over-night bag. No camera. I wasn’t prepared for this.

With my husband quietly at my side, I started to push every time I had the urge. I wasn’t having contractions in the traditional sense. Just intense pressure in my bottom. “Stop pushing with your face,” a nurse instructed. In between pushes I would reach into my husband’s sweat shirt pocket for some ice chips that I was storing in a plastic cup. My mouth was so dry.

I wasn’t sure if my pushes were working. I was distracted for a split second by my bright purple knee socks. Not a good look. Stay focused. “Is anything happening?” The doctor told me to reach down and feel for myself. I touched the top of my baby’s head. I gasped. It was the most perfect moment. It suddenly became real and I snapped out of the fog I was in. I have to get the baby out now.

At 4:42pm I became a mom. The doctor placed this tiny person on my chest. I looked up at my husband who had tears in his eyes and we kissed. We have a daughter. What a surprise! The room was quiet now. I was comfortable. Someone turned the lights down. We’re a family now. Despite the pain, fear and uncertainty it was a perfect day and I wouldn’t change a thing.

It definitely doesn’t end here. My Hannah turns 7 months old tomorrow and I have a ton of stories to share. Thanks for stopping by and see you next Friday. Enjoy the long weekend!

The day Hannah arrived, part two

Friday, August 28th, 2009

ambulanceI could hear the siren getting louder as they got closer  to the house. I couldn’t believe that was coming for me. I felt a little embarrassed. Was this really necessary?  I’d never been inside  an ambulance before. The truck pulled in the driveway. They shut the siren off, but the lights were still going. Oh, brother! And here comes a police car, too. My neighbors will  be so worried. I was approached by one of the medics. He started asking a ton of questions at once and on top of that was speaking so loudly. I literally put my hands over my ears and cried to him, “please stop shouting!”

The pain was really bad now and I could hardly speak. I yelled at my husband to answer the questions for me.   How many weeks pregnant are you? How far apart are your contractions? Whatever you do don’t push! Push? What are you crazy? Of course I’m not going to push. I’m not having the baby today. I’m not even having contractions. My back just really hurts. Wait…before we go I really have to run to the bathroom though.

Oh my. This WAS it! I left the bathroom and told the medic about the new sensation I was having . I really wanted  to push. We have to get you to the hospital now. What hospital do you want to go to? I don’t care. The closest one.  I fought them hard as they tried to get me on the gurney. I can’t sit! I can’t sit! They eventually got me to lay down on my side and wheeled me to the truck. Just before they slammed the doors shut my husband yelled, “I’m right behind you.”

“Only eight more minutes,” the driver said over her shoulder. We were getting closer  to the hospital. Bouncing around in an ambulance was awful. I couldn’t wait to get there and find out what exactly was going on. Despite the medics previous warning, I was  pushing. It helped relieve the intense pressure in my back and bottom.  The urge had  become so regular at that point. It would build up and then I’d push. When the medic caught on he shouted, “are you pushing?? Stop pushing!” I ignored him. This was not something I had control over.  I kept thinking, “relax! I’m not going to deliver in your ambulance!”

Sorry guys, but this post is getting way too long. Check back next Friday for the conclusion of, The day Hannah arrived. Have a great weekend everyone and Happy Birthday Mae-mae!

Oh, and if you missed part one of this story click here.

The day Hannah arrived

Friday, August 21st, 2009

10129968915_0_albMy back was bothering me  again. I sat at the kitchen table trying to  finish  a bowl of cereal, but I was too uncomfortable. I was 36 weeks pregnant and I had a horrible cold. I called in sick to work and shuffled back to bed.  I tried to fall asleep, but the pressure in my lower back wouldn’t give. I flopped from side to side. I paced around my bedroom. I rocked on my hands and knees, but my back continued to throb. I couldn’t sit still for more than a second. I called for my husband who happened to be  home  recuperating  from a substantial orthopedic surgery that he had two weeks earlier. He massaged my back while balancing on his crutches, but it did no good.

“Don’t leave me”, I said. I was nervous and had to keep moving. He hobbled behind  me from room to room. Maybe I pinched a nerve or pulled a muscle? Let’s just call the midwife and  tell her what’s going on. She said it could just be end-of –pregnancy discomfort. Call her back if anything changes.  I wasn’t having any other symptoms. Until…very suddenly I did.

I ran to the bathroom and  threw up. The pressure in my back ramped up and radiated down into my bottom. I was moaning and walking  around on my tippy toes with my back arched. It was intense. Could this be it?  Was this labor? It came on so suddenly that we weren’t sure. I wasn’t having contractions . Everything we read said that labor progresses slowly and can take hours and hours for first time moms.  Could this be some other medical issue? My husband said, “that’s it we’re going to the hospital.” I was crying.

Somehow he managed to get me into the backset of the car although I was unable to sit. I was on my knees holding onto the head rest. We reached the stop sign at the end of our block and I jumped out of the car. I couldn’t tolerate the car. I just couldn’t do it. My husband was yelling at me, “what are you doing? Get back in the car!!” I somehow managed to crawl back in and he drove like a maniac in reverse back to our house. He whipped  into the driveway and called 911. ..To Be Continued.

Check back next Friday for Part 2 of, The day Hannah arrived. Have a great weekend and Happy Birthday Peter!

“Preventing Preemies” – a great Time magazine article

Thursday, July 30th, 2009

About 12 percent of births, one in eight, in the United States are preterm. Babies who are born preterm are at higher risk of needing hospitalization, having long-term health problems and of dying than babies born at the right time.

Time Magazine this week features “Preventing Preemies,” an in-depth report on America’s growing crisis of preterm birth. The article highlights the work of March of Dimes and the $11.5 million pledged to our Prematurity Research Initiative Grants. March of Dimes Medical Director Dr. Alan Fleischman is quoted and the 2008 March of Dimes Premature Birth Report card is featured among the graphics illustrating this compelling article
If you think you are having preterm labor, call your health care provider or go to the hospital right away. The signs of preterm labor include:
• Contractions (your abdomen tightens like a fist) every 10 minutes or more often
• Change in vaginal discharge (leaking fluid or bleeding from your vagina)
• Pelvic pressure—the feeling that your baby is pushing down
• Low, dull backache
• Cramps that feel like your period
• Abdominal cramps with or without diarrhea
Your provider may tell you to:
• Come into the office or go to the hospital
• Stop what you’re doing.  Rest on your left side for one hour
• Drink 2-3 glasses of water or juice (not coffee or soda)
If the symptoms get worse or do not go away after one hour, call your health care provider again or go to the hospital. If the symptoms go away, relax for the rest of the day. If the symptoms stop but come back, call your health care provider again or go to the hospital.

You don’t need to have all the symptoms to have preterm labor. Take action even if you have only one. For more information on preterm labor, including a video, click on this link.