Friday, February 27, 2009
Many women ask “when will I go into labor”? They will usually say they are so much dilated and/or so much effaced, and would like an idea of when labor day will come. I’m sure that every OB, midwife, nurse, doula and childbirth educator would love to have a scientific answer for this, because somebody would make a lot of money!!
Women like to know how far they are dilated and effaced because it give them a sense of ‘going somewhere’. But for those of you who find you are NOT dilated, or effaced, rest assured that you are not broken. I know women who walk around at 4cm and 100% effaced for a month before they go into labor, and I also know of women who were not dilated at all, and went into full blown labor and gave birth within hours.
It is because there is no magic hour or day that coincides with our dilation and effacement that having a vaginal check may not even be necessary. This especially applies to women who are term and can give birth safely at any time. I’m still up in the air on preterm labor. I do think that if a person is having preterm contractions, it might be helpful to know if they are causing dilation and effacement. It may be a difference between medications and bedrest or not. Some women dilate quite silently without hardly feeling contractions. This is also another case where vaginal checks might be helpful. However, even in both of these two cases, a vaginal check only gives us an idea of what has occurred, and is NOW. It will never tell us what is going to happen and when.
Many women believe that if they are dilated to a certain number, they will automatically be admitted to the hospital - even if they are not having contractions. There are some hospitals that won’t let you leave at a certain number, and there are others that will send home up to 5, 6 and even 7cm if you are not having contractions. Yes, I know a hospital that sent a woman home who was dilated to 7cm. She was not having contractions (or they stopped, I can’t remember). They wanted to admit her and break her water, but she refused and went home. I don’t know all the details, perhaps she even signed a waiver, I’m not sure - but my POINT is that you can be dilated quite a bit, and not go into labor right away. My other point is that not all hospitals will keep you based on your dilation, if you are NOT having contractions. Many hospitals feel quite comfortable sending a woman home who is not contracting at is 4 and even 5 cm dilated.
I have personally walked around at 4 and 5 cm dilated and 100% effaced. I have been 4cm and 100% effaced for 2, 3 and 4 weeks. I’ve been 5 cm for up to 2 weeks. Although, I was on bedrest, and medications, I still managed to stall labor enough to have baby at ‘term’. With my 5th baby, I was 4cm for a week or two. One day I started having contractions and went to the hospital. Contractions were about 9 minutes apart, and after about 3 hours they were 7 minutes apart. They checked me, and I had dilated to 5cm. Two hours later, I was still contracting about ever 5-7 minutes apart, but I had not dilated past 5cm. THEY SENT ME HOME!! With contractions! With a history of giving birth from 5 cm to 10 in 20 minutes.. (With another child I gave birth from 6cm to birth in less than 50 minutes).. I was terrified to leave the hospital, and I could have demanded to stay, but as it turned out, labor stopped two hours after I got home, and I went another 2 weeks until I gave birth...
So if you are dilated, and want to know when you will give birth, there is simply no guessing. If you are NOT dilated, there is no guessing. Neither clearly indicated going early, or going late. Perhaps you can take comfort in the fact that women all over the world are wondering when they too will go into labor. And that every woman who has ever given birth has also wondered. For those of you who think labor will never happen, I know you hate to hear it, but no woman has stayed pregnant forever. Well, except those women with the petrified babies... but that’s another story!