Labour and childbirth is a unique experience for every woman. It is important to be aware of the initial signs of labour which will include:
- A backache
- Regular contractions
- The draining of water or amniotic fluid (‘breaking waters’)
- Sticky mucous substance excreted from the vagina
Labour will vastly differ between women due to a multitude of factors, but an approximate average length is between 12-18 hours. A detailed birth plan can be created with your obstetrician at Western Specialist Centre in Melbourne, so you will be completely informed about what you have in store.
Any labour that begins before 37 weeks gestation is defined as preterm labour, as 38-40 weeks is the standard gestation period of pregnancy. Any babies born prematurely will be at a higher risk of complications. As organ systems are not fully developed before 38 weeks this can cause respiratory distress and immature lungs, as well as problems with digestion.
Should you go into preterm labour, your doctor can administer medications to prevent infection and stop the labour. If the labour is unable to be stopped or delayed, our highly experienced team of obstetricians will take steps to ensure the baby is born as healthy as possible, and this may include a medication accelerating the development of your baby’s lungs. Each case and patient will be evaluated and monitored closely, and the appropriate treatment or intervention will be decided.
It can be common among first pregnancies to experience labour that lasts too long, and if the amniotic sac has ruptured, this may lead to infection. In this case, antibiotic medications may need to be administered.
Abnormal Presentation During Labour
An abnormal presentation can increase the risk of injury to the baby as well as damage to the birth canal and uterus. Ordinarily the baby will prepare for the birth by moving down with the back of the head in position to enter the pelvis, though on occasion the baby may be in a breech position, feet or buttocks first in the birth canal. Sometimes a placenta praevia may take place, where the placenta blocks the cervix. Your baby will be monitored, and the position checked with an ultrasound scan and a physical examination. In these cases of abnormal presentation, assisted delivery methods may be adopted.
Premature Rupture of Membranes During Labour
If the membranes that surround the foetus rupture prematurely, it can lead to a high risk of infection. An emergency delivery may need to be performed
Umbilical Cord Prolapse During Labour
The umbilical cord carries oxygen and nutrition to your unborn baby. A prolapse can occur when the umbilical cord slips into the cervix before the baby, causing blood flow to the baby being obstructed, so assisted delivery methods may need to be undertaken.
Umbilical Cord Compression During Labour
If the cord at any point during labour gets compressed, it can decrease the blood flow to the baby causing a drop in the foetal heart rate. With a significant drop or other signs of distress, a caesarean section will be considered.
Amniotic Fluid Embolism During Labour
During a difficult labour, a small amount of amniotic fluid may enter the bloodstream and travel up to the lungs, causing constriction. This can result in an irregular rhythm, rapid heart rate, cardiac arrest or death.
When to Contact the Hospital
Once your labour starts you should contact the Melbourne hospital where you are booked to deliver, and the midwives will advise you further.
It is fine to stay in your own home as long as possible, providing you feel safe and are coping with your contractions.
Here is an approximate guide of when you should come to the hospital:
- Contractions are painful and less than five minutes apart
- Contractions are lasting between 45-60 seconds
- Contractions require concentration and you cannot talk during them
You need to contact the hospital if:
- Your water breaks or there is any fluid leakage
- Vaginal bleeding
- The movements of the baby are much less than usual
We can answer any questions regarding labour and childbirth, contact Western Specialist Centre in Melbourne for more information.