Growing Concerns: Doctors Respond to Women's Fears about Labor

When to Call the Doctor

Umbilical Problems

The umbilical cord is thin, so it can be difficult to view on an ultrasound. Still, if it's seen to be wrapped around a baby's neck (known as a nuchal cord), this can become a source of unnecessary worry for many pregnant moms. It seems scary, but in the uterus, something tight around your baby's neck won't compromise her "breathing." She gets her oxygen through blood from the placenta. In addition, the consistency and firmness of the cord make it hard for the cord to be pinched. The truth is, doctors can't do anything about the position of the cord during pregnancy; there is little risk for the baby, and it may unloop itself because the baby is still moving all the time. In a worst-case scenario, a nuchal cord can lower a baby's heart rate during labor, causing her stress to the point that a cesarean delivery is necessary. That said, a full 25 percent of infants are born with the cord around their neck -- and they have no adverse outcome.

Is It Labor?

As the date of your delivery draws near, you may become concerned about what's happening in your body and wonder, "Is it okay if I call my doctor?" For us, the bottom line is: If you aren't sure, you should call. This is even more true for first-time moms who have never experienced contractions. Contact your doctor if you aren't absolutely certain about what your body is telling you -- and if you experience any of the following, call immediately: vaginal bleeding that is like a period; contractions that occur every ten to 15 minutes if you are less than 36 weeks or every five minutes when you are more than 36 weeks; rupture of the membranes or leaking fluid; a severe headache that's not relieved with acetaminophen; severe swelling of the face, hands, and feet; decreased fetal movement; or a fever higher than 100.4?F.

Any time you call your doctor with a question or a concern -- even if it's one you've had before -- you deserve an answer. No question is foolish, and when you're on the verge of delivery, no trip to the hospital is unnecessary because a professional needs to confirm that you and your baby are okay. If you have been diligent about taking care of yourself, coming to your prenatal visits, and sharing your concerns from the beginning, your well-informed and experienced ob team will be there to guide you through any glitches or emergencies that might occur on your big day. That's what we're here for.

Originally published in the October 2011 issue of Parents magazine.

Excerpted with permission from the publisher, Da Capo Press, from The Mommy Docs' Ultimate Guide to Pregnancy and Birth. Copyright ? 2011 by Yvonne Bohn, M.D., Allison Hill, M.D., Alane Park, M.D., and Melissa Jo Peltier. Available in bookstores or at

All content on this Web site, including medical opinion and any other health-related information, is for informational purposes only and should not be considered to be a specific diagnosis or treatment plan for any individual situation. Use of this site and the information contained herein does not create a doctor-patient relationship. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.

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