The early weeks of pregnancy are fragile—and confusing. Here, the answers to your questions.
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Mom: Sarah Pelmas, 43, San Francisco
Baby: Owen, born June 6, 2007 (Pelmas' first child)
The details: "My water broke in the middle of the night—just like in the movies," says Pelmas. However, contractions didn't start, so she and her husband went back to sleep. There were still no contractions the next morning, and since there's a risk of infection after the membranes have ruptured, her doctor suggested she go to the hospital at 2 p.m.
Once she arrived at the hospital, her contractions still hadn't begun, so the doctor gave her Pitocin, a drug that helps kick-start labor. "That sure ramped things up. Pitocin makes contractions pretty serious pretty quickly," Pelmas says. A couple of hours later, she asked for the anesthesiologist. She had planned to have an epidural and felt it was a good time to start it. The anesthesiologist arrived in 20 minutes and injected an anesthetic drug into the area near Pelmas' spinal cord. "The epidural was fantastic. I could still feel what was happening, but there was no pain," Pelmas says. She fell asleep for about four hours, and when she woke up, it was time to push. After about an hour and a half of pushing, her baby was born.
What she'd do differently: "Nothing. I had a great birth experience. It was much better than I imagined it would be."
Dr. Gaudet on how to know when you're in labor:
1. The amniotic sac breaks, releasing fluid, and you begin to experience contractions.
2. Contractions last progressively longer, and the interval between them grows consistently shorter.
3. Your contractions are so strong that you can't carry on a conversation during them.
4. Contractions continue even when you change positions.
5. A general rule of thumb is that you should go to the hospital when your water has broken and contractions are three to five minutes apart; however, that recommendation varies. Ask your doctor for an action plan that's best for you.