Disclaimer: The following information contains somewhat technical/boring informational material geared towards women in their third trimester of pregnancy. If you were hoping to be entertained or enlightened by my misadventures, stay tuned for the next blog!
No, I am not sick nor am I having contractions. I devised this little acronym to assist me in recalling the three important things that I need to ask my doctor during each office visit until my labor commences. B.E.D. stands for: Baby Station, Effacement, and Dilation. I also thought this acronym rather fitting since pregnancy is usually instigated with a woman being in bed and ends in bed (albeit a hospital birthing bed). As I was recently informed, the components of B.E.D, are the three main indicators that specify when a woman is about to go into labor. Please keep in mind that despite any of these factors, I am a living example that anything can go awry at any given point in time.
The other night, when I met with my doula, she instructed me to ask my doctor about my B.E.D. progress. Copiously, I scribbled notes and attempted to untangle her detailed description of each of the three components, but I was still quite lost. When I turned to Jon for understanding, he was involved in a game of pet n' purr with Tiger and his face appeared equally blank. So, when I waddled into my doctor's office on Thursday, I suddenly realized with a jolt -Omigosh I left my paper with questions in my car. I felt like an irresponsible student who had forgotten her homework at home....In haste, I texted my doula--What were those three things again (and what do they mean?)?
Luckily, my doula was quick to respond and my doctor was able to give me the lowdown on Baby J's newest statistics. I have discovered that here is an entire quadratic formula utilized in order to evaluate the labor and birthing process. As I have so expertly demonstrated thus far, the obstetrical community can measure, quantify, and qualify just about anything. Yes, big brother has been watching over me and Baby J!
For all of my fellow preggers nearing the tail end of pregnancy, I will attempt to describe B.E.D. as well as exercises and routines that can assist in the progress. For all of you non-preggers, but loyal blog followers, I apologize in advance for the overall dryness and technicalities of the following information.
Firstly, baby station is the baby's location in relation to the mother’s pelvis and how low down the head is positioned. This is measured by the relationship between the baby's head and the mother's sit bones. The range is from -5 (floating, bouncing baby) to +5 (crowning or moment of extreme pain followed by immense relief). This is usually measured by the practitioner via an internal exam during the last few weeks of pregnancy. Supposedly, women whose babies have not properly descended feel immense pain when the doctor checks for the station, as it feels as though he is reaching upward, towards the tonsils. My baby station is currently at -2, and like all expectant mothers, I would love to hop on the express train to the +5 station!
Effacement refers to the shortening of the cervix as the mother’s body readies itself for labor. This is measured in percentages, ranging from 0-100. My doula described effacement as an aligning of the cervix to the uterus; in which the cervix eventually becomes a part of the uterine wall, allowing the baby an easy passage downward (it helps me to visualize a zigzagging water slide which straightens out at the end, depositing its components into an awaiting pool). When a woman is fully effaced, she can lose her mucus plug, which has so far acted as a sealant to the uterus and the outside world. I am at 0% effacement, so clearly I have some work to do in this department.
Effacement is as equally important as dilation, although few people realize this. According to my doula, women who are not effaced as they reach their due date are more likely to be induced, as their body refuses to labor on its own accord (the medicine administered in inductions can also lead to additional medical interventions, as contractions are usually severely heightened). Pectocin, the main medication used for induction, contains a synthetic chemical, which is also present in semen. This chemical helps launch the cervix into action, so it is actually advisable for women to get busy during this time, as sex has yet another added benefit!
Dilation is the most popular term, although not the most important, associated with childbirth. Dilation is the process of the stretching or widening of the cervix, in order to accommodate the passageway of baby. This is measured in centimeters, ranging from 1-10. Until a woman is well into her third trimester, she should be 0 cm dilated and the number should gradually increase as labor progresses. Supposedly, when a woman dilates, it feels similar to cramping and the contractions intensify.
A woman can choose to have an epidural around 4 cm and the window usually closes around 8 cm. Again, according to my doula, women usually believe that 8 cm is the moment of extreme angst and pain, but she explained that the contractions do not intensify; the body just readies itself for the final stage in delivery. As per my doctor's visit, I am only a "fingertip" dilated. A woman is usually advised to go to the hospital around 4 cm or the cardinal rule of 5-1-1 (contractions are 5 minutes apart, lasting 1 minute, for a 1 hour duration).
As I previously mentioned, I have some work to do to help move my body along with the labor process. My doula instructed me to walk at least twenty minutes a day and to perform 20 squats, and 20 lunges on each leg daily. Since I have been on bed rest for two months, my muscles have greatly atrophied and prior to two weeks ago, I easily became short of breath. Now, I have two weeks for my muscles to remember all of the hard work they accomplished prior to bed rest.
And I almost forgot about my Red Raspberry Leaf Tea! This tea is advisable for women to drink at the end of third trimester, as it is supposed to help strengthen the uterus for childbirth. Red Raspberry Leaf Tea can be purchased at GNC, Whole Foods, or any natural market. Like Popeye with his spinach, I am envisioning my uterus becoming so tough that it will eventually thrust out Baby J like a cannon ball.
So, preggers, as you near your due date and the vaginal intrusions begin, don’t forget to ask your doc about your B.E.D progression and whether there is anything you can do to assist in expediting this process. As I have learned throughout my pregnancy, I am the best advocate for myself and for my baby. I would highly encourage others to adopt this approach at the onset of pregnancy, since you are carrying and protecting your most valuable, treasured asset.