Common Concerns When You’re about to Give Birth

The trials and tribulations of labour
© Can Stock Photo / dolgachov

Discovering you’re pregnant is such an exciting time. As your belly grows, you will likely start to think about your upcoming labour and how to prepare for it, devising birth plans, talking with other parents about their experiences, and discussing options with birth professionals. Being educated about possible issues that could arise and how to navigate them can result in improved birth outcomes. Here are a few common concerns.

You’re group strep b positive

At 36 weeks of pregnancy you will be tested for bacteria called Streptococcus B. The bacteria naturally live in the vaginal canal, but if there is more than a certain level, it will trigger a positive result. The recommendation then is to be intravenously fed antibiotics during labour once your water has broken because, though the risks are low, Strep B can cause meningitis. However, the exposure to high dose antibiotics has a negative impact on the microbiome, and can create an increase in yeast. To combat this, take probiotics (50 billion CFU) daily after the antibiotics to help avoid conditions like thrush and vaginal yeast infections, and to keep mama and baby’s gut healthy!

You’ve gone over your due date

More often than not your birth team will seriously consider induction as you near ten days post due date, and it will be a foregone conclusion by 42 weeks of pregnancy. Ideally, labour starts on its own with your body producing large amounts of oxytocin, the hormone needed for an efficient labour. With an induction, however, your body is given synthetic oxytocin – sometimes referred to by the brand name, Pitocin – to help labour progress, which presents some risks.

An induced labour might not progress as well, or as gradually, as it is established by an external intervention instead of the body’s natural mechanisms. Further, synthetic oxytocin can cause a baby’s heart rate to descend to a dangerous level, in which case the result is often a c-section.

Your water needs to be broken manually

Typically, waters break on their own, the baby slides into the canal, prostaglandins in the amniotic fluid are released, and labour intensifies. 

However, with a slow-to-start or slow-to-progress labour, having the waters broken can be a great way to get things moving. With an active labour pattern you can likely hold off a bit longer, as having the bag broken will really intensify the labour. If you do decide to have it done, be ready!

Your baby is being continuously monitored

Generally during labour, the baby is monitored intermittently, and every so often your nurse or midwife will listen to your baby for about a minute. Continuous monitoring, on the other hand, means the monitoring belt is left on the entire time, impeding your freedom of movement. This can happen with an induction, if labour becomes medicated, or if it is discovered that the baby is stressed (e.g. the heart rate is fluctuating). The upside of continuous monitoring is that problems are detected early; the downside is you are more likely to find issues when you start searching for them, leading to further interventions.

You’re experiencing failure to progress 

This term is given to women when their cervix isn’t making the changes it needs to have a successful vaginal birth. Simply put, the cervix isn’t opening to the full 10 centimetres! This happens for any number of reasons, such as baby’s position or medical induction, and it may mean that your labour ends in a c-section. Remember: the goal of labour is a healthy baby and mama, so whether born vaginally or skyward (!), failure to progress doesn’t mean you’ve failed at anything!

You’re totally freaked out 

Labour can be scary! We need our bodies to produce oxytocin to have labour progress, but fear inhibits its production and can result in an inefficient or stalled labour. Feeling safe and secure produces large amounts of oxytocin, triggering active labour patterns which are desirable for a favourable birth experience! Research shows that being educated and having a supportive birth team increases positive birth outcomes, no matter the obstacles we might encounter. Interview health professionals, consider hiring a doula, and openly discuss your fears and possible complications, so you can be fully supported when the big day happens!