Actually there’s a lot they forgot to tell you about labour because a panicky mom doesn’t make for a good delivery! No, no, that’s just a joke because actually its what you don’t know that can cause panic rather than the other way round. In the absence of knowledge, the imagination can run riot and give you nightmares. So here’s a sprinkling of facts to keep the fears at bay: –
- Braxton Hicks contractions -these are false labour pains that occur in the last six weeks of pregnancy. How do you distinguish between real and false labour? Well to start with, the duration and frequency of the contractions will tell you whether you need to worry or not. As a rule don’t panic till the contractions are 10-15 minutes apart. But just to be on the safe side keep your suitcase packed well in advance!
- Contractions – Contractions are caused by the tightening of the uterus as it prepares to start squeezing. Normally contractions are extremely regular at 10, 15 or 30 minute intervals. Occasionally they can be at 7 or 13 minute intervals. Sometimes however, you may get a constant burning tummy ache or several contractions at one time. Backache is a fairly normal sign of labour and as the labour develops and progresses, the backache will probably intensify. The good thing in all of this is that regardless of how labour begins, as it progresses you are left in little doubt about it!
- Passing the plug – this is a block of mucus that sits at the end of the cervix during pregnancy sealing the baby into his protective environment. This plug has to pass out to allow the baby to emerge. The plug could come out in one go or could be passed out in several tries lasting a half hour or so. It could also be accompanied by a little blood or tinged with pink colour. Passage of a ‘bloody show’ is often the sign that your cervix is effacing and/or dilating and that the process that leads to delivery is beginning. But labour could start one, two, or even three weeks after this, with your cervix continuing to gradually dilate over time. Do inform the doctor of this discharge. If your discharge suddenly becomes bright red call the doctor immediately.
- The waters have broken – sounds dramatic doesn’t it? The membranes surrounding the baby rupture letting out the amniotic fluid in which the baby has lived so far. If labour hasn’t started yet this is a good sign that it will begin soon and if it already has, things will move faster now. The fluid is normally clear but sometimes it can be tinged with green, which means that baby has done potty or passed meconium as it is called. If that’s the case tell your doctpor immediately because while mostly its nothing to worry about, in some cases it could be an indication of foetal distress. The only other precautions are – call the hospital as soon as the water breaks and lie down because now there’s a chance of infection. Don’t take a bath or have sexual relations; use sanitary towels (not a tampon) to absorb the flow; don’t try to do your own internal exam; and wipe front to back at the toilet.
- Labour room preparation – most hospitals in India prepare the woman for delivery during early labour. This involves giving an enema to clear the digestive tracts so that when bearing down she doesn’t accidentally pass stool – which can contaminate the sterile birthing setup. The pubic hair is also shaved to prevent infection. It is advisable not to eat anything as your labour starts so that in case a cesearean is needed you are empty stomach.
- Labour time – this can stretch anywhere from 10 hours to 20 hours! Not all of it is uniformly bad, the early phase of labour gives way to a more acute phase till finally the body is ready for the final few pushes. Walk for as long as possible and do deep breathing to keep the pain under control.
- Episiotomy is the surgical incision made in the perineum to enlarge the vaginal opening just before the birth of the baby’s head.
The labour is made easier if you’ve been regularly exercising before hand and if you have been taking precautions for controlling blood pressure. Take Lamaze classes if possible, choose your doctor and maternity home very carefully, keep your bags packed and before you know it, you’ll be bringing home a wonderful bundle of joy!