Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Body’s Preparation for Labor and Delivery

Editor's note: This is the latest installment from our mother-to-be who will be delivering at The BirthPlace at Sinai.

I was aware that one of the signs that the body is preparing itself for labor was having the baby drop into one’s pelvis, but I didn’t expect mine to be such a dramatic experience. This phenomenon is also called lightening or engagement, and for first time moms, usually occurs 2 to 4 weeks before the baby is born. (For moms who have already given birth, sometimes it happens right before labor – or not at all.) For many women, lightening provides some relief; they can breathe better and eat larger meals. However, they might also experience added pressure on the pelvic floor or bladder, leading to more frequent bathroom trips.

I was sitting at the dining table, talking with friends, when lightening happened to me: I literally felt my belly slowly fall into my lap. Thinking that it couldn’t possibly be time yet – my due date was 5 weeks away – I said nothing. However, at my OB appointment a couple days later, the doctor confirmed that the baby had indeed dropped, and she could even feel the baby’s head during my pelvic exam.

Apparently, my cervix has also started dilating (opening up) and effacing (getting thinner) in preparation for labor. This doesn’t mean that I will necessarily go into labor in the next few hours or even days (it could take weeks), but it’s an exciting sign that the baby’s almost here!

I’ve been also feeling more of those Braxton Hicks contractions. Last week, I even felt a few in my lower back, but they didn’t move forward towards the front of my uterus like they would in true labor.

Even so, if you’re less than 37 weeks pregnant and experience four or more Braxton Hicks contractions in an hour for two hours or more, contact your OB-GYN. Your doctor will want to make sure that you’re not in premature labor. If you’re 37 weeks pregnant or more and your contractions get closer together, start timing them. If you’re experiencing contractions that last at least 60 seconds and having them every five minutes, call your OB-GYN. You might just be in labor!

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