Monday, 22 July 2013

going into labour - 5 things I know now

As the Duchess of Cambridge (in labour as I write) could no doubt tell you, as you come to the end of your pregnancy, you are both looking forward to, and dreading, going into labour.

My littlest (and last) child has just turned three, and I'm doing a little series to mark the event, talking about pregnancy, birth, babies, and toddlers.  This is my second instalment, on going into labour.

5 things I now know about going into labour

1 - It might never happen

The due date is just a guide to let you know when your baby is fully cooked.  The chance of actually going into labour on your due date is very slim.  Once you've got to about 37 weeks your baby is likely to be fully cooked, so it's not considered premature labour after that.  Some people do have their baby early (I had one at 38 weeks, which was great for me), but most are late.  Which is rubbish.  The longer past your due date you go the more hippo-like you feel, the more time you have to worry about things, the more people come and ask you if you're still pregnant (please tell them you're not - it's funny), and the more doctors and midwives talk about induction and caesarians.

If you've opted for a planned caesarian, you've got to hope you won't go into labour.  Planned caesarian's are usually scheduled for before the due date to avoid this happening.

If you get to about 42 weeks, the medical people will probably want to induce you.  You can hold out with regular check ups if you like, because it is likely that it'll come along soon, but you might have to admit defeat eventually, and either get induced or have a section, depending on what seems best.

I did go into labour myself all three times.  Early once, and late twice.  Each time was very different, but all of them led to a sudden gut-wrenching realisation that I was really going to get a baby out of me.  An actual baby.

2 - you might not know if your waters break

For a lot of people, their waters don't break until they are right in the middle of actually pushing a baby out, and do you know what?  That's actually a good thing.  The longer you go between your waters breaking and the baby arriving, the higher the risk of infection for your baby.  If it takes too long, the medical people will want to induce you, and will want to give your baby antibiotics.  

When you're very pregnant, you, and all the people around you, are very worried that your waters could break at any minute.  Midwives say you should look out for a mucus plug or 'show'.  This is supposed to come away first.  I personally only noticed this in my third pregnancy, but there you go.

I had my waters break in spectacular fashion in my first two pregnancies, however, both times I was at home, and in a room with a mop-able floor, so it was fine.  I don't know anyone who's waters have broken in the supermarket.  What about you?  Where did your waters break?

If you've watched One Born Every Minute, you'll know that lots of people aren't sure if their waters have broken.  Let's be honest, toward the end of pregnancy there's a lot of pressure on the bladder, and accidents do happen. Amniotic fluid is clear, with a yellow tinge, so it might look like other fluids. On top of that, the way the baby is lying in the womb can mean that the waters can break, but most of it still be caught inside.  Basically baby's head is plugging you up.  

Some people feel a 'pop' when their waters go - I only did for the third one, and I was lying down at the time.  The amount of amniotic fluid varies.  You might be advised to wear a sanitary towel.  Scrap that.  A nappy will work pretty well, for a little while, and it's not like it's going to spoil your outfit.  If you're going to sit down, I'd advise sitting on an incontinence sheet  - your midwife may have given you some of these in your homebirthing kit, or you can buy them.  They might be with the nappies, for older kids who wet the bed.

You should tell your midwife when your waters break.  Also tell her what it looks like and how much there is.  She's going to be worried that the baby is distressed if there's poo in there, and will probably want to check you over anyway.  You're going to be a Mum within about 48 hours.

3 - the more babies you have had, the worse the Braxton-Hicks get

When you're coming toward the end of your pregnancy, you might well get Braxton-Hicks, or practice contractions.  These little beauties turn up randomly from time to time, but are especially keen on ruining your evenings and any patches of sleep you were getting when you're nearing the end.  I've known women who have had half a night of contractions getting closer together every night for a WEEK before the real deal turned up.

Talking of the real deal.  I have had three babies, and I have laboured for all of them, and I could not tell you the difference between 'practice' contractions and real ones.  To be honest, I think they're all the same, but they only get to be real when they result in a baby.  There are some completely different contractions later on in labour, but we'll talk about those when we get there.

I have been told that Braxton Hicks get more painful for each child you have.  That was certainly true for me.  Was it true for you?  That does not mean that labour will be more painful for each child.  For most people, the second child is a lot easier to deliver than the first.  Mainly because they have an idea of what's going to happen.

4 - there are lots of ways you can induce labour at home

When you're getting near the end you are tempted to try anything.  Long walks, going up and down stairs, eating pineapple, curries, or pineapple curries, and of course, having sex.

I was a big fan of eating pineapple.  Although apparently for it actually to work you'd have to eat pineapple every waking minute.  Having sex must work because semen has the same stuff in it that they put in in gel they use to induct you.  However, if you are desperate enough to have sex, the baby is probably coming soon anyway.

Your midwife might offer you a membrane sweep.  This is not very pleasant, as it involves her sticking a finger into your womb and moving it around in a circle, however, it will definitely cause some cramping and may get the whole shebang moving.  Or not.

The main thing that the body looks for when going into labour is that you are relaxed.  With my first baby I went into labour exactly two minutes after I'd sent my last email about a big project I was working on, so if you really want to have the baby the best thing to do is to lie on your left side and read a book, or watch TV, or chat to friends on facebook - whatever it is you do to relax.  I think this is why people say that pregnant women get a nesting instinct... it's only actually when you sit down after you've done all the housework, that the baby decides they're good to go.

5 - it can take ages to get into established labour

Very few people have very short labours, most of us will be like the Duchess of Cambridge and go on for ages.  If you're planning on going to hospital, the temptation is to get there soon, just in case, but really, you've got ages.  The best place to be for a happy labour is somewhere you feel safe, and labour is scary enough, do you really want to be in a hospital?  With my first baby I went to hospital much too soon, and ended up with lots of medical people wanting to help.  It's their job to help, and they're good at it.  It is also natural to want to stop someone's pain if you can.  However, labour hurts, but only for a day... probably not even that long.  If you're being sick it's just because the body can't do food at the moment, it's busy.  The best thing to do is relax as much as you can, roll around on a birthing/yoga/gym ball, and watch TV.  If possible get someone else to keep a note of the timing of your contractions, so you don't have to stress about it.  No doubt there's an app for that now.  You really don't need to go into hospital until you're in established labour; indeed you are best off not doing.  I had my second baby at home, and tried to have my third at home too, and if I were doing it again, or my sister was doing it, I'd totally recommend that.  You don't have to move from your comfy home, and you get two midwives all to yourself.  Even though the second time I ended up having to go to hospital in an ambulance (which was a touch rubbish, as I'm sure anyone who's had to go in an ambulance can attest to); I still felt that doing the lion's share of it at home had made the process better for me.  My two midwives came with me in hospital, and only left me when I went into theatre, which is much better attention than I'd have had in a hospital.  It also meant I only came in contact with the hospital staff when I actually needed them, at which point they were as gods to me.

If you've had a baby, what was the weirdest thing you found about going into labour? 

This is one of a series of posts on all things bumps and babies.  Here are a number of things I now know about:

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