Yes, you read that right. I spent another night in the hospital in labour and then was sent home with baby still in my belly! It’s hard to know how many details to share and what to keep private, but I’ll do my best to walk the tightrope of discretion.
I’ve had contractions on and off for nearly 3 weeks now which really isn’t that uncommon and in fact, having braxton hicks for almost the entire duration of all five of my pregnancies is normal for me, and completely harmless. They don’t hurt, they don’t change my cervix (moving me toward labour and delivery too soon) and they’re totally manageable (they stop if I change positions, hydrate, etc). Prodromal labour, which is what I am having this time, is completely new to me. Prodromal labour does change the cervix but only the tiniest, slightest, little bit and the kicker is that prodromal labour contractions feel like the real thing while braxton hicks are completely painless. Prodromal contractions do all the things that regular contractions do, not unlike what premenstrual cramps do: cause spotting, stimulate the bowel, heaviness/pressure in the pelvis, initiate low backache. While braxton hicks are usually easy to sleep through, prodromal contractions are not.
So you can imagine that a woman dealing with days, weeks, even months of prodromal labour contractions can easily become physically and emotionally exhausted. They’re much more susceptible to being induced (on the grounds of utter exhaustion) bringing on higher rates of further intervention such as assisted deliveries and caesarean sections. Nobody knows for sure what causes prodromal labour, but the most probable theories are poor fetal positioning for birth (the body is slowly working the baby into optimal position with each contraction), and emotional blocks/stress.
I had written a post about how I felt like I had an emotional block, and that this was the reason for my prodromal labour but last night at the hospital, I learned about the most likely reason for all of these contractions!
A few years ago, after I had Katie and before I had Callum, I had a PAP test that came back abnormal. I was sent into Vancouver for a biopsy of my cervix which came back showing that I had cancerous cells and would need them removed through a small operation called the LEEP procedure, which pretty much just burns the cancer cells off the cervix. After I was treated, I went for follow-up PAP tests and have since then had perfectly normal test results putting me at an equal risk of cervical cancer as any other woman. Which is great! Except I learned last night that LEEP causes scar tissue, which can make cervical dilation difficult, which totally explains why Callum’s labour and delivery, my fourth, was the longest, most painful, most involved birth I had experienced. Not only did my cervix not dilate with my own body’s natural contractions, it had difficulty dilating with a synthetic hormone called Pitocin, a drug used to induce labour that causes insanely intense uterine contractions. My body wouldn’t even respond to that strong drug, and so the doctors had to keep upping the levels of Pitocin while monitoring Callum’s ability to recover from each contraction.
THIS is why I am thankful for my athleticism because I have no doubt that my fitness attributed to my ability to withstand hours and hours of intense labour on a scarred cervix with zero pain medication. I am no hero, and some people might even call me an idiot, but at the end of the day(s), I did it, and Callum was born vaginally, and healthy.
Despite all of my contractions (among other signs of labour and delivery), my cervix is still sitting at 3cm dilated, 80% effaced. Sure, it’s frustrating and yes, I’m exhausted, but I’m taking each day at a time. The baby is healthy, I am healthy, and he will come when he comes. I may need Pitocin eventually, and I’ve come to terms with it (I had 12 hours straight of quiet contemplation last night while contracting on my side in the hospital bed), and delivery day will have to be sooner than later because of my age and other factors. So, I’m just hanging in there and getting as much rest as possible!
It’s a relief to finally know the reason for all of these contractions with minimal progression and honestly, if I can put a positive spin on this, my cervical scarring may have even stopped me from having the baby at 36 weeks, allowing him to stay cozy in my womb and develop further. So, there ya go. Perspective is everything.
Here is a picture I snapped just before left for the hospital:
Have you guys ever had an abnormal pap test? Or know of anyone that had one?