Archive for the ‘Cervical ripening’ Category

Throwback Thursday: Dilation Isn’t Everything

Thursday, September 14th, 2017

A look back at one of our most popular blog posts of the past few years. Originally published May 18th, 2015. And still every bit as relevant!

BESTA mother waits patiently on the small triage bed while the nurse concentrates on what her fingers are telling her about the progress of this labor. After a minute, she pulls her fingers out, and chirps brightly, “You are 5 centimeters dilated!” She flips her gloves into the trash can and turns to the computer to chart.

It’s a universal experience going into a hospital in labor. The progress of labor is reduced to a number between one and ten, and nothing else. An hour later, after being admitted to her room, the mother is told she is “still only a 5.” Once again, she isn’t a mother, she is a number. She is left alone to contemplate that, and to deal with it as she may.

Most of us tell our birth stories in terms of this number. “I was stuck at 5 forever!”

What if I told you that this number means very little when it stands alone? What if I told you that your cervix does a whole lot more than just dilate? What if I told you that there are more ways to measure progress in labor than that ubiquitous range of centimeters?

Well, it’s true.

My preceptor and mentor, Desirre Andrews says:

“There is a mystery surrounding cervical dilation and changes prior to and during labor. I like to think of it as the jobs of the cervix. The cervix does so much more than simply opening.”

So, the next time you have a baby, and you are facing a vaginal exam, make sure you ask about what else your cervix is doing!

1. Effacement
Hold up your pointer finger. Touch the second knuckle. From there to the tip of your finger is about the length of your cervix. In order for the cervix to dilate completely, your cervix has to shorten, or “efface,” completely. This is measured in percentages. If your cervix only reaches from the tip of the finger to the first knuckle, you are about 50% effaced. This process must happen before dilation can even occur. In many women, it occurs at the same time or it overlaps dilation. In first time moms, we often see effacement first, then dilation quickly follows. What if our mother was told that, while she was “still 5,” she went from 50% effaced to 90% effaced? That’s progress, people!

2. Ripening
Touch the tip of your nose. (You didn’t know this would be so interactive, did you?) That’s about the texture of a closed, uneffaced cervix. That’s no good for dilation, and it has to soften, or “ripen” in order to do its other jobs. This primarily happens before labor, but can also happen throughout labor. The texture of your cervix must work its way to the softness of your relaxed lips, and then softer still to match the texture of the inside of your cheek. We call cervixes at this stage “soft like butter.” Yet another measure of progress. If our mother were still at 5, but her cervix was much softer and more difficult to feel, that’s progress!

3. Position
To protect your baby, your cervix points towards your tailbone (posterior) during pregnancy, and sometimes even early labor. In order to open and allow the baby to move through it, your cervix must shift its position until it is pointing directly into your vagina (anterior). If our mother were told that though she were “still 5,” but that her cervix was easier to reach, this job has been done, and she has made progress!

4. Dilation
Last, but not least we have dilation. Your cervix must open up from a tightly closed position, all the way up to “10 centimeters.” Really, it’s not 10, though. At this point, nothing can be felt except baby’s head. It’s often now simply called “complete dilation.” The thing to realize about dilation is that it cannot happen unless the cervix is doing all of its other jobs already. They often happen seemingly in tandem, but sometimes a mother will be “stuck at 5” while her cervix is effacing, softening, and moving forward. Once those jobs happen, dilation is a downhill race to the finish (though it may not seem like it).

So, the next time you consent to a vaginal exam in labor, make sure you get more than a number. Ask about effacement, softness, and the position of your cervix. Your cervix is amazing and has a lot more to do than just open. Make sure it gets all the credit it deserves!

Were you informed of the various ways the cervix works before and during labor? How might this change the way you approach your future pregnancy care?

-Tiffany

Dilation Isn’t Everything: The many jobs of your cervix.

Monday, May 18th, 2015

BESTA mother waits patiently on the small triage bed while the nurse concentrates on what her fingers are telling her about the progress of this labor. After a minute, she pulls her fingers out, and chirps brightly, “You are 5 centimeters dilated!” She flips her gloves into the trash can and turns to the computer to chart.

It’s a universal experience going into a hospital in labor. The progress of labor is reduced to a number between one and ten, and nothing else. An hour later, after being admitted to her room, the mother is told she is “still only a 5.” Once again, she isn’t a mother, she is a number. She is left alone to contemplate that, and to deal with it as she may.

Most of us tell our birth stories in terms of this number. “I was stuck at 5 forever!”

What if I told you that this number means very little when it stands alone? What if I told you that your cervix does a whole lot more than just dilate? What if I told you that there are more ways to measure progress in labor than that ubiquitous range of centimeters?

Well, it’s true.

My preceptor and mentor, Desirre Andrews says:

“There is a mystery surrounding cervical dilation and changes prior to and during labor. I like to think of it as the jobs of the cervix. The cervix does so much more than simply opening.”

So, the next time you have a baby, and you are facing a vaginal exam, make sure you ask about what else your cervix is doing!

1. Effacement
Hold up your pointer finger. Touch the second knuckle. From there to the tip of your finger is about the length of your cervix. In order for the cervix to dilate completely, your cervix has to shorten, or “efface,” completely. This is measured in percentages. If your cervix only reaches from the tip of the finger to the first knuckle, you are about 50% effaced. This process must happen before dilation can even occur. In many women, it occurs at the same time or it overlaps dilation. In first time moms, we often see effacement first, then dilation quickly follows. What if our mother was told that, while she was “still 5,” she went from 50% effaced to 90% effaced? That’s progress, people!

2. Ripening
Touch the tip of your nose. (You didn’t know this would be so interactive, did you?) That’s about the texture of a closed, uneffaced cervix. That’s no good for dilation, and it has to soften, or “ripen” in order to do its other jobs. This primarily happens before labor, but can also happen throughout labor. The texture of your cervix must work its way to the softness of your relaxed lips, and then softer still to match the texture of the inside of your cheek. We call cervixes at this stage “soft like butter.” Yet another measure of progress. If our mother were still at 5, but her cervix was much softer and more difficult to feel, that’s progress!

3. Position
To protect your baby, your cervix points towards your tailbone (posterior) during pregnancy, and sometimes even early labor. In order to open and allow the baby to move through it, your cervix must shift its position until it is pointing directly into your vagina (anterior). If our mother were told that though she were “still 5,” but that her cervix was easier to reach, this job has been done, and she has made progress!

4. Dilation
Last, but not least we have dilation. Your cervix must open up from a tightly closed position, all the way up to “10 centimeters.” Really, it’s not 10, though. At this point, nothing can be felt except baby’s head. It’s often now simply called “complete dilation.” The thing to realize about dilation is that it cannot happen unless the cervix is doing all of its other jobs already. They often happen seemingly in tandem, but sometimes a mother will be “stuck at 5” while her cervix is effacing, softening, and moving forward. Once those jobs happen, dilation is a downhill race to the finish (though it may not seem like it).

So, the next time you consent to a vaginal exam in labor, make sure you get more than a number. Ask about effacement, softness, and the position of your cervix. Your cervix is amazing and has a lot more to do than just open. Make sure it gets all the credit it deserves!

Were you informed of the various ways the cervix works before and during labor? How might this change the way you approach your future pregnancy care?

-Tiffany

Know Your Score – Before an Induction

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

Knowing your Bishop’s score prior to agreeing to an induction when not medically necessary or setting the stage for a medically necessary induction can make a great difference in expectations, additional interventions and understanding for the process as a whole.  Knowing your score can help you determine the type of induction or whether or not to be induced at all.
Your score is based on a vaginal exam that takes into consideration the areas listed in the chart below.


Dilation, Effacement, Consistency and Position all have to do with your cervix. Station is telling where the presenting part of baby is in relation to the ischial spines. (sitz bones).

Are you a good candidate for induction based on your score? Do you need a ripener? Are you a VBAC mother?  What other factors are working in your favor or against success?
Induction is not an easy or guaranteed process. You can see the criteria toward success is telling even without discussing the additional risks leading to additional interventions, medications and/or cesarean.

Additional links and information on induction can be found in this previous post http://prepforbirth.com/2009/08/12/preparing-for-labor-induction/.

Preparing For Birth – Common Pregnancy and Childbirth Terms

Tuesday, August 25th, 2009

Below is a compilation of common terms and acronyms that women often will come across during pregnancy, labor, and delivery.  Check back as more will be added from time to time.

  • AROM – Artificial Rupture of Membranes – using a finger or tool to open the amniotic sac to to allow the fluid to release.
  • PROM – Premature Rupture of Membranes – when the amniotic fluids releases before labor starts.
  • SROM – Spontaneous Rupture of Membranes during labor.
  • ROM – Rupture of Membranes
  • Miso – Misoprostol is the pharmacological name for Cytotec a drug used for cervical ripening and induction though a controversial, off and against label used ulcer Medication
  • VBAC – Vaginal Birth After Cesarean
  • HBAC – Home Birth After Cesarean
  • WBAC – Water Birth After Cesarean
  • UBAC – Unattended Birth After Cesarean
  • CBAC – Cesarean Birth After Cesarean – This is a repeat cesarean after a woman desires and tries to have a vaginal birth after cesarean.
  • ERCS – Elective Repeat Cesarean
  • RCS – Repeat Cesarean
  • Natural Birth – Labor and vaginal delivery free from intervention except for intermittent fetal monitoring. In the hospital only a saline lock and intermittent monitoring.
  • Vaginal Birth – Baby born vaginally with or without medication and intervention.
  • First Stage – Early, Active, and Transition. This encompasses the effacement to 100%, dilation to 10 centimeters/complete, position movement of cervix from posterior to forward as contractions begin while staying longer, strong and closer together prior to pushing and delivery.
  • Second Stage – Pushing phase after cervix is completely dilated to delivery of baby.
  • Third Stage – Delivery of baby to delivery of placenta.
  • Fourth Stage – First hours after placenta is delivered.
  • Oxytocin – A hormone made in the brain that plays a role in childbirth and lactation by causing muscles to contract in the uterus (womb) and the mammary glands in the breast. It also plays a role in bonding with mate, child, and socially.
  • Pitocin (oxytocin injection, USP) is a sterile, clear, colorless aqueous solution of synthetic oxytocin, for intravenous infusion or intramuscular injection.
  • Prostaglandin – Any of a group of hormone like fatty acids found throughout the body, esp. in semen, that affect blood pressure, metabolism, body temperature, and other important body processes such as cervical ripening.
  • Uterus -The muscular organ in which a fertilized egg implants and matures through pregnancy. During menstruation, the uterus sheds the inner lining.
  • Cervix -The lower portion of the uterus that provides an opening between the uterus and the vagina. Also known as the neck of the uterus that softens, effaces, dilates and changes position during labor.
  • Vagina – A muscular canal between the uterus and the outside of the body. Also known as the birth canal.
  • Perineum – The area between the anus and the vulva (the labial opening to the vagina).
  • Pelvis -The basin like cavity formed by the ring of bones of the pelvic girdle in the posterior part of the trunk in many vertebrates: in humans, it is formed by the ilium, ischium, pubis, coccyx, and sacrum, supporting the spinal column and resting upon the legs.
  • Pelvic Floor Muscles -The sphincter mechanism of the lower urinary tract, the upper and lower vaginal supports, and the internal and external anal sphincters. It is a network of muscles, ligaments, and other tissues that hold up the pelvic organs.  Includes bladder, rectum, vagina and uterus.
  • Fundus –  Top of the uterus. During labor contractions the fundus thickens and gets more firm as the strength of contractions increase and dilation increases.
  • Placenta -The organ that develops during pregnancy that transports nutrients to the fetus and waste away from the fetus. The placenta is attached to the uterus and is connected to the fetus by the umbilical cord.
  • Umbilical cord – The cord that transports blood, oxygen and nutrients to the baby from the placenta.
  • Bloody Show – Mucous and blood mixed together as dilation and effacement occurs.  Starts off as blood tinged mucous and becomes heavier as labor progresses.
  • Stripping membranes –  Pressing the amniotic sac away from the inside of the cervix.
  • Mucous plug – The mucous that blocks off the non-dilated and non-ripened cervix for protection.
  • Lochia – Post birth bleeding that though a wound site from the placenta detaching from the uterine wall, it mimics a heavy and long menstrual period.
  • Cesarean – Baby born via a surgical incision made through the abdomen into the uterus.
  • Obstetrician – Is the surgical specialty dealing with the care of women and their children during pregnancy, childbirth and the immediate post birth time.
  • Midwife – Is a person usually a woman who is trained to assist women during pregnancy,  during childbirth, and postpartum as well as the newborn post birth.  There are many types of midwives – some work in the home, at birth centers or in the hospital.
  • Doula – Is an assistant who provides various forms of non-medical and non-midwifery support (physical and emotional) in the childbirth process. Based on a particular doula’s training and background, the doula may offer support during prenatal care, during childbirth and/or during the postpartum period. A birth doula provides support during labor. A labor doula may attend a home birth or might attend the laboring at home and continue while in transport and then complete supporting the birth at a hospital or a birth center. A postpartum doula typically begins providing care in the home after the birth. Such care might include cooking for the mother, breastfeeding support, newborn care assistance, errands, light housekeeping, etc. Such care is provided from the day after the birth, providing services through the first six weeks postpartum. In some cases, doula care can last several months or even to a year postpartum – especially in cases when mothers are suffering from postpartum depression, children with special needs require longer care, or there are multiple infants.
  • Birth Center – Free standing location usually run by one or more certified nurse midwife. True birth centers are almost always independently run. They are not overseen by a hospital or in a hospital. May be near a hospital. Often set-up like a home birth space and epidurals or other pain medications are not available.   Hospital “birth centers” are labor and delivery floors not birth centers in the true sense of the term.
  • Intervention – Anything that does not exist in a naturally occuring labor and delivery that is done.
  • Saline Lock/Buffalo Cap/ Hep Lock – Is the apparatus that the IV line hooks into.  It is silicone tubing that is lightweight with a plastic needle that stays under the skin to allow easy vein access.
  • Foley – A foley catheter is used to release the bladder if a woman unable to urinate due to an epidural, post surgery, or with a swollen urethra post birth.  It can also be used for successful cervical ripening in lieu of cytotec.
  • Induction – To attempt to artificially start labor usually by pitocin, artificial rupture of membranes with or without cervical ripening (Cytotec or Foley Catheter).
  • Epidural – A medical method of giving pain relief during labor. A catheter is inserted through the lower back into a space near the spinal cord. Anesthesia is given through this catheter, and results in decreased sensation from the abdomen to the feet.
  • Contraction – Tightening and loosening of your uterus. Productive contractions are often felt at the bottom of the uterus, start out like period cramps and progressively grow stronger, longer in length, and closer together.
  • Braxton-Hicks – Practice contractions that do not dilate or efface the cervix often felt at the top of the uterus versus the bottom.
  • Episiotomy – A surgical procedure to widen the outlet of the birth canal to facilitate delivery of the baby and avoid a jagged rip of the perineum. (Natural abrading or tearing is preferred and episiotomies are not evidence-based to be used except under specific circumstances).
  • Ina May’s Sphincter Law -Tapping into the concept that if one sphincter is open and relaxed, the others will also open, relax and be able to handle, quite adequately, the task at hand. This also includes the aspect of birth requiring privacy, sacredness, and honor as well so a woman feels safe, unwatched and supported.
  • Kegel Exercises – Named after Dr. Arnold Kegel, consists of contracting and relaxing the muscles that form part of the pelvic floor (sometimes called the “Kegel muscles”).

Preparing for a medically necessary labor induction

Wednesday, August 12th, 2009

Labor induction is increasingly on the rise, however, even ACOG has a limited statement on what is a defines medically necessitated labor induction.  This is generally defined as gestation or chronic hypertension, preeclampsia, eclampsia, diabetes, premature rupture of membranes, severe fetal growth restriction, and postterm pregnancy (postterm dates are defined generally after 42 weeks gestation though protocols and practice style is often after 41 weeks).  There are varying opinions in the birth world of what is truly medically necessary so always research your options and need.

Induction is not a panacea, it only sometimes works, is more challenging than naturally occurring labor and is often long.  I hope my suggestions and information can help you be more well equipped when it is the best solution for you and your baby.

So you do need to be medically induced, how can you prepare?  Do you need cervical ripening prior to the induction as well ?

Start with the type of induction you need.

Ripening is for a cervix that is not ready for using pitocin for induction purposes (see Bishop’s score below). Ask your care provider what your score is.  If he or she does not use the Bishop scoring ask for the particulars of each of the five categories then you can use the table yourself.  The position category denotes the position of your cervix.

Are you a good candidate for induction? Do you need ripening too?

Are you a good candidate for induction? Do you need ripening too?

If you need a ripener prior to the induction, you have two common options (Cytotec or Foley Catheter) though there are more available (Cervidil or Prepadil), they are not widely used any longer.

Foley Catheter ripening is a mechanical ripening method that requires no medicine therefore has very little negative consequence related to the usage. The catheter is inserted in the cervix, then filled with saline to fill the end of the bulb and mechanically opens the cervix up to approximately 4 cm’s while the foley is in place. The mother will go home until the catheter falls out or will remain in the hospital overnight.  The pressure from the foley catheter promotes continual prostaglandin release that encourages the effacement and works in conjunction with the mechanical dilation to open the cervix.  When the catheter falls out, unless it prematurely dislodges the cervix is ripe and ready for induction (pitocin usage). Sometimes the mother is already in early labor and may not require pitocin or require less.   For more information and studies regarding foley cather ripening view my blog page http://prepforbirth.com/2009/07/20/foley-catheter-ripening-versus-medication-studies.html.

The most common yet riskier method of cervial ripening is the use of Cytotec (Misoprostol).  Cytotec is used in an off label manner for ripening the cervix. ACOG has this to say in the revised new guidelines that include seven recommendations based on “good and consistent scientific evidence” — considered the highest evidence level — including one that sanctions 25 mcg of misoprostol as “the initial dose for cervical ripening and labor induction.” The recommended frequency is “not more than every 3-6 hours.”  Though this drug has been shown to be successful for ripening it is not without concern, consequence, risk or controversy.  Please do your research ahead of time prior to allowing this drug to be used on you and your baby.

Here are some helpful links:

http://www.aafp.org/afp/20060201/fpin.html

http://www.petitiononline.com/cytotec/petition.html

http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/458959

http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Making+an+informed+choice:+Cytotec%5BR%5D+for+induction-a0128063329

Your cervix is ripe for induction

The most common next step is the use of Pitocin to induce labor contractions. What to expect: an IV with fluids running, continuous monitoring, and limited mobility. The increased pain and stronger than usual contractions over a longer period of time associated with Pitocin use often leads women to ask for epidural anesthesia. There are varying protocols, but the low-dose protocol is most often used today.  Induction is not fail safe, you may or may not respond to “tricking” your body into labor.  Your baby also may not respond favorably.  In the event the induction fails or causes maternal or fetal distress or host of other complications, a cesarean delivery is the next step.

Here are some helpful links regarding Pitocin.

http://www.rxlist.com/pitocin-drug.htm

http://www.corninghospital.com/Educate/Pit.htm

http://pregnancy.about.com/od/induction/a/pitocindiffers.htm

http://dailymed.nlm.nih.gov/dailymed/drugInfo.cfm?id=4975#section-4

Rethink how you pack your birth bag

Considering the length of time that you will be at the hospital  considering adding the following items to your birth bag.

  • Movies (make sure your hospital provides DVD players or you will want to bring one of your own)
  • Puzzles of all types
  • Cards
  • Games
  • Books
  • Laptop Computer
  • Extra changes of clothing
  • Extra food for husband, partner or labor support
  • Extra cash
  • Ear plugs and eye covering to make sleeping easier
  • More comforts from home to be soothing

Points to think about

  • You are having a baby and need to do the work of labor completely at the hospital. ONLY allow those who can help you keep the chaos and interruption to a minimum.  This is not a party.
  • Turn of cell phones.
  • Keep room comfortable, peaceful,  and stress-free.
  • Having your water broken artificially does not mimic it naturally breaking.
  • Use the space provided and get on the birth ball, stand near the bed and sway, use rocking chair, have equipment moved closer to bathroom so you may sit on the toilet, use as many positions as possible to help baby negotiate and to help dissuade a mal-position.
  • Induction increases the risk of a cesarean delivery becoming necessary whether from the induction failing (fooling a body into labor isn’t as easy as it sounds), maternal/fetal distress or another complication may arise.  Here is a sample cesarean delivery plan in the event it becomes necessary.  sample-cesarean-plan

My closing thought to you is take a deep breath and know when medically necessary an induction is a reasonable step.

My hope is for you to be well informed, be confident to ask questions, be strong to make your own decisions, and thrive to a successful birth even when Plan A isn’t an option anymore.