Will My Labor Pains Never End?

QUESTION

Dear Midwife,
I am in my 38th week of pregnancy and have been having contractions for about three or four weeks now. The baby has dropped into my pelvic area and the docter said that I am fully effaced and dialated to 3. But it hasn't changed over the weeks and the docter won't do anything about it, he just keeps sending me home.

I have tried walking, intercoarse, and so on and still nothing. my plug has aleready gone, but no water breaking, and the pains get so bad that I am in bed constantly.

I'm not sure of what else to do... All this work for weeks and no show!
What do you think I should do?

ANSWER

I tell my own patients a little story. If you were starting labor and a mean tiger jumped out of the bushes to attack you, it would not be a good time to have a baby, right? So if your body makes the "fight or flight" hormone called adrenaline, it will fight your contractions to keep the baby inside until it is safe.

So here are the things you can do.

First, stay really well hydrated (drink lots of water). If you are dehydrated, every little twitch hurts more, and besides, your uterine muscle doesn't work very well, it just spasms (which drives you nuts).

Second, if you do start to get contractions, ignore them as much as possible, relax, don't tell anyone what is going on, go about your business or if it is night, just lie in bed with the lights off and try to rest even if you can't sleep. If all else fails, take a relaxing bath to try to get things to calm down. Weirdly, whatever you do to calm down shuts off the adrenaline, which actually helps you get in labor!

Plan to go into labor naturally five days after your due date (this is the average, some go later but all are done by 2 weeks after the due date), practice being patient (which you will really need as a parent!), and enjoy this special time only you have with your baby. The last thing you want to do is rush things.

Hopefully, by the time you do go into labor, you will be one of the lucky ones who is already half way done because your body has chosen the gentler path to full dilation.

I remember a case like this, and the 19 year old's family was having a cow because she was 3 cm, they wanted me to "do something." She was patient, though, and she gradually dilated to 6 cm over the next week, before she started active labor. Her labor was a piece of cake! and even though she had not planned to, she ended up going natural and was SOOO proud of herself--as she should have been, because she waited until it was really time. She didn't have to subject herself or her baby to the risks of an epidural or cesarean, and actually had a great experience. I hope you have one, too.

-- Cynthia, CNM. PhD.

Cynthia Flynn

Cynthia Flynn, CNM. PhD, is the General Director of the Family Health and Birth Center which provides prenatal, birth, postnatal, gynecological and primary health care to underserved women and their families in Washington, D.C. Recently Cynthia served as Associate Professor of Nursing at Seattle University. There she not only taught, but remained in full scope clinical midwifery practice at Valley Medical Center where she cared for pregnant and birthing women, and practices well-woman gynecology, family planning, and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases.

Cynthia founded Columbia Women's Clinic and Birth Center, where she took care of pregnant women and infants up to two weeks of age and attended both birth center and hospital births. Before Cynthia earned her CNM, she worked as a registered nurse in labor and delivery and postpartum and is a certified Doula and Doula trainer.