Midwife Claire Wood comes into the Baby Channel Studio to answer questions from viewers.
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Wendy Turner-Webster: After nine months of waiting in anticipation for the birth of a child, the big day finally arrives. Midwife Claire Wood is in the studio to answer questions about the best ways of ensuring that the actual birth is as pain and anxiety free as possible, be it at home or in hospital. Hello Claire! Claire Wood: Hello! Wendy Turner-Webster: Alright. Let’s start from the top. I have been pregnant for nine months, how will I know I am in labor? Claire Wood: Well, that is a 64-million-dollar question, and it can be something that even very experienced healthcare professionals can find difficult to answer, because when a woman actually goes into labor, it’s quite a subtle process, and it doesn’t tend to be sort of bang, sudden you are in advanced labor. There are various signs that a woman is in labor. The most obvious one really is regular painful contractions, and by that we mean contractions that come three in a ten minute period, three times in a ten minute period, and last about a minute, and are sufficiently painful that the woman has to stop what she is doing, can’t speak, can’t focus on anything else. That really is a sort of hallmark of established labor. But that’s not going to be probably the first thing that happens. Wendy Turner-Webster: And how would you describe a contraction, like a quick sort of stomach pain? Claire Wood: Like probably the most painful period pain you have ever had all your life, but something that comes on gradually, and builds up to a peak, and then dies off, but is an intense feeling of pain in the lower abdomen. Wendy Turner-Webster: Would waters have already broken at this point or not? Claire Wood: They may have and they may not have, either is normal. Sometimes waters will break quite a long time in advance of labor. Sometimes they will break very later on in labor. So either situation is normal, and neither is cause for alarm. So if women begin to have contractions and their waters haven’t broken, that’s not a problem. Wendy Turner-Webster: And just to go into a bit of graphic detail, waters breaking, what does it actually mean and entail? Claire Wood: Well, the waters are essentially the amniotic fluid in which the baby is floating in the uterus. They are in a bag of membranes, and when the membranes break, the water comes out. Now, sometimes a lot of water comes, and that tends to be from in front of the baby’s head. That’s called the forewaters. But occasionally, there will just be a trickle of water, and quite often that’s from somewhere behind the baby, where it’s called hind-water leak, and that’s not all of the water coming. That tends to be just a little of the water. And quite often that can happen quite a long way in advance of labor, and then there’s no further loss of water. So it can be different for different women. It's not always the enormous gush all over the floor that people imagine it will be. Wendy Turner-Webster: And presumably, it’s rather like suddenly wetting yourself, I am assuming? Claire Wood: Yes, probably a little bit, and in fact, women sometimes aren’t sure whether their waters have broken, or maybe they have had a little leak from the bladder. And in fact, amniotic fluid when its clear looks quite similar to urine, so it can be quite difficult. And sometimes the only way to confirm it is to have a midwife or a doctor do speculum examination which will then be able to determine whether the waters are pooling up in the top of the vagina. Wendy Turner-Webster: I am sure it’s a classic fear of somebody who has reached their due date. They pop out to the shops on their own, like what if my waters break. Have you got any practical advice there? Claire Wood: Well, I think first of all, don’t panic. That might be embarrassing, at worst, but it’s not a cause for alarm. It may be inconvenient, but 99% of the time when the waters break, it's fine. It’s a normal event. And if it happens before labor, it may well be a sign that things are star