Posts Tagged ‘labor’

Why is 39 weeks so important?

Thursday, March 30th, 2017

midwife measuring pregnancy bellyIf your pregnancy is healthy, it is best to wait for labor to begin on its own. And if you do decide to induce labor, ask your provider if you can wait until at least 39 weeks.

Most people think that pregnancy lasts 9 months. But that isn’t exactly true. Pregnancy usually lasts about 40 weeks (280 days) from the first day of your last menstrual period (also called LMP) to your due date. A first trimester ultrasound can also help to determine your due date.

In the past, a pregnancy that lasted anywhere between 37 to 42 weeks was called a term pregnancy. Health care providers once thought this 5-week period was a safe time for most babies to be born.

But experts now know that scheduling your baby’s birth a little early for non-medical reasons can cause problems for both mom and baby. Getting to at least 39 weeks gives your baby the time he needs to grow.

Why is 39 weeks so important?

Here’s why your baby needs 39 weeks:

  • Important organs, like his brain, lungs and liver, get the time they need to develop. At 35 weeks, a baby’s brain weighs just two-thirds of what it does at 39 weeks.
  • There is more time to gain weight. Babies born at a healthy weight have an easier time staying warm than babies who are born too small.
  • Your baby will be able to feed better. Babies born early can sometimes have difficulties with sucking, swallowing, and staying awake long enough to eat.
  • Your baby is less likely to have vision and hearing problems after birth.

Why can scheduling an early birth cause problems?

There are some risks associated with inducing labor:

  • Your due date may not be exactly right. Even with an ultrasound, your due date can be off by as much as 2 weeks. If you schedule an induction and your due date is wrong, your baby may be born too early.
  • Pitocin, the medication used to induce labor, can make contractions very strong and lower your baby’s heart rate.
  • You and your baby have a higher risk of infection if labor doesn’t begin soon after your water breaks.
  • If the medications used to induce labor do not work, you may need to have a c-section.

What if there are problems with your pregnancy?

You may not have a choice about when to have your baby. Your provider may need to induce labor to help keep you and your baby safe. If your provider does decide to induce labor for the health and safety of you and your baby, you can learn more about how labor is induced on our website.

Remember: If your pregnancy is healthy, it is best to let labor begin on its own. If you and your baby are healthy, and you and your provider decide to induce labor, make sure you wait until at least 39 weeks. Healthy babies are worth the wait!

Have questions? Email us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Eating during labor

Wednesday, October 28th, 2015

Woman in laborYou may have heard a news report saying that it is okay for a pregnant woman to eat a light meal during labor. In fact, they even said it may be a good idea for some women, based on new research from Canada (not yet published). But, don’t rush out for a cheeseburger on your way to the hospital; you need to know all the details.

Current medical guidelines say that a woman should not eat solid food once she is in labor. The reason is to protect her from aspirating (breathing) food into her lungs. If a woman eats and then needs an emergency C-section, she could be at risk of aspirating during the surgery. Aspiration may lead to pneumonia, too. So, not eating any solid foods during labor is a guideline to protect the mother. (It is also the rule for scheduled C-sections and other surgeries.)

Labor is physically demanding, even grueling. A particularly long labor can leave a woman totally exhausted and lacking in energy, especially for when she needs to push. A little bit of food may go a long way in boosting her energy level. And, this study found that due to medical advances in anesthesia, eating a little bit of light food would probably not have a bad effect on a woman in labor.

The Canadian review looked at 385 prior studies and concluded that anesthesiologists and obstetrical doctors (OB/GYN) should work together to identify women for whom a light meal may be beneficial. They emphasized that doctors must identify women at low risk for aspiration – this is extremely important. And, each woman needs to be assessed individually.

But what does ACOG say?

As of the writing of this blog post, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists (ACOG) has not changed their position on eating during labor. Their position remains that “solid foods should be avoided in laboring patients.”

How about liquids?

ACOG says “Although there is some disagreement, most experts agree that oral intake of clear liquids during labor does not increase maternal complications…modest amounts of clear liquids may be allowed for patients with uncomplicated labor.” So, if you can’t eat solid foods, clear liquids (such as broth) may help increase your energy level. But whether it is safe for you to drink anything at all is something you should discuss with your prenatal health care provider.

What’s the bottom line?

Remember, this study has not been published yet, and ACOG has not changed its guidelines.

As with all medical procedures, talk with your health care team to determine what is best for you.

 

Contractions – is this the real thing?

Friday, August 16th, 2013

contractionsThere are two different kinds of contractions. Braxton-Hicks contractions, also called false labor, prepare your body for labor and delivery. Labor contractions, however, signal the beginning of childbirth. If you’ve never been pregnant before, how do you know which is which?

Towards the end of your pregnancy, you may have regular contractions that don’t immediately lead to changes in your cervix or progress to labor. If you go to the hospital only to find out that you are having false labor, don’t feel bad about it. It’s sometimes hard to know the difference between real and false labor, even if you’ve had a baby before. To tell if labor has begun, your health care provider must examine your cervix.

When you first feel contractions, time them. Write down how much time passes from the start of one contraction to the next. Make a note of how strong the contractions feel. Keep a record of your contractions for an hour. Walk or move around to see whether the contractions stop when you change positions.

You are probably experiencing false labor if:
• The contractions stop when you walk or stop on their own.
• The contractions are irregular.
• The contractions don’t get stronger or closer together over time.
Contact your health care provider right away if you are having contractions that trouble you, especially if they become very painful or if you think you are having preterm labor (labor before the 37th week of pregnancy).

For more information on the difference between Braxton-Hicks and labor contractions, click on this link.  Every pregnant woman also should know about the signs of preterm labor.

What causes back labor?

Tuesday, April 30th, 2013

back painAsked about back labor, Dr. Siobhan Dolan answers the question in her new March of Dimes book, Healthy Mom, Healthy Baby.

“Babies are usually face-down (looking toward the mother’s spine) as they move into the pelvis. But sometimes a baby is face-up (looking toward the mother’s belly) instead. This can cause intense back pain during labor and is called back labor. If you’re having back labor, your provider may try to rotate your baby by having you change positions, although that doesn’t always work. Sometimes babies rotate (either in response to a mother’s changed position or on their own), and sometimes unrotated babies are delivered face-up.”

Dr. Dolan’s book includes a section on coping with pain through relaxation techniques and with pain medications. It’s good to know about both options. You can read more about the book at this link.

Fetal scalp pH testing

Wednesday, January 9th, 2013

Fetal scalp blood sampling is a quick test your health care provider can use to check if your baby is getting enough oxygen during labor.

Sometimes fetal heart monitoring doesn’t provide enough information about how the baby is doing with the stress of labor. In these cases, testing the scalp pH can help the health care provider decide whether the baby is getting enough oxygen during labor. This helps the provider decide if the baby is healthy enough to continue labor on its own, or if a faster delivery with forceps or a cesarean section might be a better route to take.

During labor, a woman’s cervix, the opening of the uterus, thins and opens to let her baby pass through the vagina. In order to have fetal scalp blood sampling, the cervix must be dilated enough that the provider can reach the baby’s head.

The test may remind you of a pelvic exam. It takes about 5 minutes. The woman lies on her back with her feet in stirrups. The provider places a plastic cone in the vagina that fits up against the baby’s head. The provider pricks the baby’s scalp and takes a small amount of blood. The blood is tested, and results are ready in just a few minutes.

If mom has an infection, like HIV or hepatitis C, her provider may not recommend fetal blood sampling. This is because she can pass these infections to her baby through the spot where his scalp is pricked.

What is a birthing ball?

Tuesday, October 9th, 2012

exercise ballIf you’ve been to the gym, you’ve probably seen those giant exercise balls you roll yourself up and down a wall with or balance on while doing crunches. Or if you’ve had the misfortune of injuring yourself and have needed physical therapy, you’ve seen balls people balance on to help strengthen injured muscles. Well, that’s what a birthing ball looks like. They may seem weird, but I know a lot of women who swear by them!

Birthing balls can be used in several different ways. Sitting on the ball offers a soft cushion while gently forcing you to balance and maintain good posture. Kneeling in front of the ball and draping your arms over it can do wonders to help you stretch and relieve back pain. Leaning against the ball helps you shift weight, reduce stress and take the pressure off. And squatting on a birthing ball can enlarge your pelvis more than lying flat while it maintains the alignment of your baby in the pelvis.

A birthing ball offers support and flexibility and it won’t interrupt fetal monitoring.

If you are thinking of borrowing or buying a birthing ball, keep these things in mind.
• Buy a strong, sports-grade ball that comes with a pump (take the pump with you to the hospital in case you need to change the pressure at some point)
• The average woman uses a 65 cm ball.
• You should be able to sit comfortably in an upright position with your feet flat on the floor about 18 inches apart
• When getting started, have someone be your spotter for a while until you have a good sense of balance (it may be trickier to balance than you think!)
• Have fun with it and practice several positions before labor so that you can run through your repertoire and experiment with all of them when labor finally arrives.

Don’t forget, that the birthing ball can be enormously helpful with getting back into shape once your little one has arrived.

Tackling infant mortality through innovative health education

Friday, September 14th, 2012

PrintToday’s post is written by Sarah Ingersoll, Text4baby Campaign Director, National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition

September marks National Infant Mortality Awareness Month and while millions of families prepare their children for a new school year, this is also a time to reflect on the thousands of families who have lost a child far too soon. The infant mortality rate (6 in 1,000 live births) in the U.S. is one of the highest among developed nations and rates are much higher within the African-American community, regardless of income, educational level, or location. More than twice as many African-American babies die compared to their White counterparts during the first year of life, statistics that reflect a true health crisis in our country.

We know that providing mothers with the best possible information and access to care can help. This is where text4baby comes in. Text4baby is the nation’s first free text messaging service for pregnant women and mothers of infants under age one. Moms receive three text messages every week, timed to their due date or baby’s birth date, throughout pregnancy and up to baby’s first birthday. Moms get information on labor signs and symptoms, developmental milestones, breastfeeding, car seat and sleep safety, and many other topics. To sign up, textBABYto511411.

In honoring Infant Mortality Awareness Month and striving to empower more moms with text4baby, those who sign up between September 1 and September 30 will be entered to win a year’s supply of baby products courtesy of the program’s Founding Sponsor, Johnson & Johnson. Sign up now and be sure to share with your friends and loved ones!

Learn more at http://text4baby.org/. Follow up on Facebook and twitter (@mytext4baby)!

Dads, are you up for the delivery room?

Tuesday, August 21st, 2012

delivery dadSome guys seriously can’t handle the delivery room (the sight of blood makes them pass out cold – not so helpful) and that’s OK… but if you’re not too keen on being bedside when your little one arrives, consider the following. Don’t say no without making an informed decision. Sure, this whole birthing thing is scary, but you can be a lot more supportive than you may think.

Attend prenatal care appointments with your partner. Talk with her provider and nurses to understand a typical birthing routine within their practice. Ask who will be present, what will happen and who will be in charge of your partner and the baby after delivery.

Take childbirth classes and learn more about the process and how you can be supportive during labor. Make a list of questions and ask them all. You’ll learn a lot and meet other soon-to-be dads.

Take a tour of the hospital maternity ward so that you’ll be somewhat familiar with the layout once you arrive and, again, ask questions.

Ask yourself what you want out of the birth experience. Do you want to “catch” the baby? Cut the cord? Or just do your best to stay upright?

Talk with your partner about how she would like the delivery to go, what she sees as your role in it and what she needs and wants you to do.  Make a birth plan together, one that works for both of you. Be sure to discuss different scenarios in case things don’t go as planned.

Don’t get your feathers ruffled or take it personally if she gets a little snippy on the day of… it isn’t you.

If you’d love to support her but really don’t think you can take a ringside seat, talk with her about getting a doula or coach involved for that part. We’re all different and we can only do what we can do and, truly, that’s OK. But let her know that one way or another you’ll do all you can to see to it that she has what she needs when the time comes.

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.

3 stages of labor

Friday, October 28th, 2011

itstimeIs it time? Recognizing the signs of labor can help you know when it’s time to call your health provider and head to the hospital.  Learning about the stages of labor can help you know what to expect during labor and delivery.

Labor occurs in three stages. When regular contractions begin, the baby moves down into the pelvis as the cervix both effaces (thins) and dilates (opens). How long labor lasts and how it progresses is different for every woman. But each stage features some milestones that are true for every woman.

Stage 1: Early labor and active labor – The first stage of labor takes place in two phases: early labor (which can last a few hours or days, especially for first time moms) is usually at home; and active labor where you’ll want to be at the hospital or wherever you have planned to deliver.

Stage 2: Baby is born – During the second stage of labor, your cervix is fully dilated and ready for childbirth. Your health provider will want you to begin pushing to allow your baby to be born. Your baby finally is here!

Stage 3: Delivery of placenta – During the third stage of labor, the placenta, which gave your baby food and oxygen through the umbilical cord, is delivered. While you are bonding with your new baby during the first minutes of her life, your provider will get you ready for this final stage.

Read more, learn what you can do to help you through each stage and watch our video at this link.