Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Bungee jumping on a short cord

Midwives who attend strong, healthy women for their births are used to seeing mothers give birth unassisted, unmedicated, and with an ecstatic and triumphant cry. We are used to seeing labour establish and progress in a purposeful way. We are used to the power of the birthing process, which takes the woman beyond any limit that she imagined she possessed.

Occasionally we are surprised, even confused.

Especially when the woman has other babies who have all followed the standard 'normal' journey. ... when labour seemed to be established in the morning, so the midwife and the birthing team were summoned. After the greetings, and a cup of tea, and some conversation, and another cup of tea, and talk about what we should do for dinner, and mother lies down because she's feeling tired ... and the fetal head is still floating high and mobile. This mother has given birth previously, and there is nothing apparent in the size or presentation of the baby. Her contractions appear strong when she stands up and walks, but they become weak and infrequent when she rests. 

I could name several women who fit this picture, the most recent last week.  When I looked at the placenta with the mother we commented on the short cord.

The image I have in these 'slow start' multiparous births is that the baby was bungee jumping – pressing down on the cervix when the contraction’s there and mothers upright, and floating away when mother lies down or is not contracting. 

The cord may be short because of entanglement, or simply short.  The distance from the baby's umbilicus to the point of insertion of the placenta on the uterine wall does not change.  The distance between the placenta and the cervix can be reduced by amniotic fluid release, by contractions, and by the mother's position. The critical 'tipping point' will be reached only when that fetal head can dilate the cervix and enter the birth canal.  Then, it's "coming, ready or not!"

This is an article from Midwifery Today 
The Cord and the Strength of Life 
I have observed babies being birthed with the placenta detached and following right behind them for over 20 years. Throughout that time I have kept mental notes, observing, recording, pondering.

Then one day, finally, it all added up. The explanation is a short umbilical cord, a phenomenon that requires us to allow time for the baby, the cord and the placenta to descend slowly through the birth canal, in the wisdom of nature, for a healthy and natural birth. My first encounter with a short cord began with a false labor. The mother thought this was the day. She called me, and I stayed with her until labor ceased several hours later. The mother and baby were fine. There was no good reason to intervene, despite the fact that she was multiparous with 4 cm dilation and the baby was not engaged. I warned her of possible cord prolapse and asked her to be aware of her baby’s activity. A couple of days later she called me again. The birth was very quick and the baby was born with shoulders and body entangled in a barely pulsing cord. The newborn had some blood on his bottom because the placenta had separated at the time of birth. He required stimulation and oxygen, but it was all resolved quickly and within the realm of the normal. I have watched vigilantly for short cords ever since.

Two weeks ago, some twenty years after I noticed it for the first time, it happened again. This time it was with a mother who had had three babies. The last two had been very fast. She had always had mild contractions before going into labor, but this time she had more. As she was multiparous, I initially did not think there was a problem. About ten days after her due date I thought she was going to have her baby. Her uterus looked so low that it was “by her knees.” But it did not happen. “Something is strange,” I thought while checking her. I sighed. The baby was floating, even though the uterus was very low. It seemed the baby ought to be engaged, but he was not. I then listened to the baby’s heart tones and found normal heart tones but with minimal decelerations. The heart tones were at 140 and descended to 126 or so in the middle of mild contractions. I listened to the heart tones every three days. The mother was noticing movement. We decided she should try to induce herself through nipple stimulation and an enema of medicinal plants. I gave her an exam in which I stimulated the opening of the cervix. The contractions began, and she dilated another centimeter easily. The heart tones remained within normal ranges.

... However, everything stopped after a few hours. The mother was already at 5 cm, but the cervix remained inflexible. Although the baby’s head was in a good position, he was not engaged, and therefore was not exerting pressure. After the second attempt I sat down to think. I concluded that we were dealing with a short cord. In any other situation a vaginal exam, some nipple stimulation and an enema would have produced labor.

But beyond the mother and me, the wisdom lies between the baby, the cord, the placenta and the uterus. You can confirm that you are dealing with a short umbilical cord by observing the abdomen. During contractions, and sometimes without them, the baby appears engaged, even though a vaginal exam reveals that she is floating. It is important to avoid interventions that force the mother’s body to enter the birth process before the placenta and uterus are ready. The fundus has to descend with the baby. This process takes time. Contractions that cease despite dilation of 2–5 cm in a mother with previous fast births and no other complications indicate the possible existence of a short cord. Observation without intervention is important in these cases. 
—  Marina Alzugaray Excerpted from “The Cord and the Strength of Life,” Midwifery Today, Issue 70

No comments: