Preparing for labour: The unexpected

Preparing for labour: The unexpected

Although many women go on to have successful births and healthy babies, it is worth preparing yourself for the unexpected things that can happen during labour and birth

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It can be pretty disappointing when your due date comes and goes, and there is no sign of the baby. Most women are offered an induction at roughly 7-14 days past their due date, but each woman will be individually monitored and reviewed.

Membrane sweep

The first part of the induction is called a stretch and sweep, or membrane sweep. Your midwife gently inserts her finger into your cervix and sweeps around the membranes at the edge of the cervix. This releases hormones called prostaglandins and can kick-start labour.

Prostaglandin

Your body naturally produces prostaglandin, which stimulates the uterus into contracting, but some women may need prosthetic prostaglandin to help get labour started. Synthetic prostaglandin can be administered by inserting a pessary or gel into the vagina, which softens the cervix. You may need more than one dose of prostaglandin to start contractions.

Artificial rupture of membranes

Often know as AROM. One way of speeding up contractions is to artificially break the bag of membranes which surround your baby. Once the bag bursts, the amniotic fluid leaks out and the amount of prostaglandin increases, which speeds labour up. It is done using a long plastic instrument with a hook at one end, during a vaginal examination. It should not be painful, just a little uncomfortable.

Syntocinon

Syntocinon is a synthetic hormone, which makes the uterus contract, and can be used once the cervix has softened. It is usually administered using an IV (intravenous line) so you won’t be able to move around as much. You may have be attached to a foetal monitor, as Syntocinon can over-stimulate the uterus and result in your baby becoming distressed, so your baby will need close monitoring.

Sometimes if labour is not progressing fast enough and your baby becomes distressed you may have to have an emergency caesarean. This can be dissapointing for women who have already had long labours but if the midwives and doctors decide it is for the best it is probably in you and your baby's best interest to have the caesarean.

Some women may also need to have an assisted delivery which means that the baby is born with the help of forceps of a ventouse. She may also need an episiotomy to help the baby to be born more quickly.

If your baby is found to be breech and you are in labour, it depends on the hospital's policy to whether you will be allowed to give birth naturally. In the UK most hospitals advice on a caesarean for a breech baby but dicuss this with your midwife if that is the case.

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