1. How will I know when the baby “drops”? Will labor start right away afterward?

    • The common term for this event, lightening, doesn’t quite convey what actually happens: The baby’s head descends into the pelvis. Because of decreased pressure on the diaphragm and stomach, you will indeed feel “lightened” when your baby drops, and your breathing and digestion will become easier. You’ll probably also feel the need to urinate more often, however, and you may feel pressure or aches and pains in your pelvic joints and perineum. You’ll notice a change in the shape of your abdomen; the bulge will have shifted down and forward. If this is your first baby, lightening may occur about two weeks before labor starts. In women who have given birth before, the baby often doesn’t drop until labor begins.

  2. I am 35 weeks pregnant, and I have been said to be at high risk of complications because I have gestational diabetes and take insulin.

    My doctor now wants me to have a “biophysical profile.”
    What is this, and why is it done? Is it routinely done, or is this unusual? What other types of testing are done at this stage of pregnancy?

    • Fetal testing such as a biophysical profile at this stage is not routine. It is done for a specific reason, such as to check the well-being of an overdue baby (at 41 weeks or beyond) or to assess the functionality of the placenta. Because you have gestational diabetes, your doctor wants to watch the baby extra closely during these last weeks of your pregnancy.

      A biophysical profile uses ultrasound and takes from 20 to 60 minutes to complete. The baby is scored between zero and two points for each part. A total score below eight indicates a need for further testing. The least common of the three tests, a Doppler flow study, uses ultrasound to assess the rate of blood flow in the umbilical blood vein and in the baby’s arteries, brain, and heart. The procedure is much like a regular ultrasound exam, except that the test uses color to differentiate the blood vessels. Waveforms on an ultrasound screen show variations in the rate of the blood flow. Decreased flow may indicate that the baby is not receiving enough blood, nutrients, and oxygen from the placenta.

  3. What do you think about sonograms during pregnancy? Do you think they affect the unborn babies?

    • What Is An Sonogram?
      Sonograms, also called ultrasounds, refer to high frequency sound waves. When these sound waves hit a dense mass, tissue or fluid, they produce echoes, which bounce back to a receiver. The receiver then translates these into a signal that converts to either sound (fetal heartbeat) or an image.
      Ultrasound technology is used during pregnancy for the familiar fetal “scan”, to listen to the baby’s heartbeat (Doppler) and for electronic fetal monitoring during labor.
      The most common reasons it is used are:
      Confirming a pregnancy and checking for twins or more
      Estimating gestational age
      Checking fetal growth
      Checking the well being of the baby – including blood flow to and from the placenta, as well as how much amniotic fluid is around the baby.
      Diagnosing a miscarriage, bleeding and fetal or placental abnormalities.
      Confirming the position of the baby for procedures such as an amniocentesis or turning the baby from a breech position to head down (external cephalic version).

      Are They Safe?
      It has been over 40 years since ultrasound was first used on pregnant women. Although some harmful effects in cells have been observed in a laboratory setting, abnormalities in embryos and the offspring of animals and humans have not been demonstrated.

      Apparent ill effects such as low birth weight, speech and hearing problems, brain damage and non-right-handedness reported in small studies have not been confirmed or substantiated in larger studies from Europe. The studies were not adequately performed or large enough to show actual validity.

      Of course, it remains important for scientists to continue to study the effects of this technology. Ultrasounds are considered to be a very safe method of providing valuable information during pregnancy. There is no indication that they are harmful or affect the baby in any way.
      In some areas, women can even choose to see their babies in 3-D or 4-D color scans. Sometimes these sonograms are offered in non-medical settings that are set up very much like photography studios. Personally and professionally, I have mixed feelings about having an ultrasound merely for a photo or video of the baby. I think it is sensible to have one only as needed, and recommended by your care provider.

  4. Hi Tori, I am 12 weeks pregnant and my appetite is finally returning! My concern is my diet. My husband and I have just moved to our new house and because we have been so busy, I’ve been eating rather poorly. In addition, I have no interest in eating fruits or vegetables (they just don’t appeal to me…) and under my doctor’s suggestion, I have stopped taking my prenatal vitamins. I am concerned that the combination of poor diet or no interest in healthy foods will affect my baby … any suggestions?

    • It is very normal for you to lose your appetite during the early part of pregnancy, especially if you haven’t been feeling well. Your doctor probably suggested that you stop taking your prenatal vitamins because they can be upsetting to your stomach.

      As your appetite increases, you will discover that your interest in foods will increase as well. Of course, it is important to eat a healthy diet, but all of us have had brief periods of poor eating habits without detrimental effects. If within a couple more weeks, you are still having no interest in eating foods from the basic four food groups, I would suggest meeting with a dietitian. Your practitioner can refer you to one. He or she can help you find very healthy (and surprisingly tasty) food selections that are off the beaten path.

  5. I’ve heard that only a small percentage of women actually have their “bag of waters” break prior to labor. With my first child, my amniotic sac ruptured at 29 weeks and I delivered at 31 weeks.

    There was no known cause, such as infection, for the premature rupture. Now I am 32 weeks along in my second pregnancy, and preterm labor began in my 26th week. I am doing very well, taking terbutaline tablets, and staying on bed rest. Could my water bag break before this baby’s birth, too?

    • Your question concerns two topics: the rupture of the water bag (amniotic sac) before labor begins, and premature labor. Let’s address these two separately. In the movies, labor always seems to begin with the breaking of the water bag. But labor actually begins this way for only 10 to 15 percent of women. When it does, it usually happens at full term, between 37 and 41 weeks. Labor seldom begins before 37 weeks. But when it does, it often begins with rupture of the membranes. Sometimes, there has been a mild infection in the uterus and amniotic sac. This condition, called chorioamnionitis, can be difficult to diagnose and treat. In other cases, undiagnosed cervical dilation has caused the amniotic sac to break. In still others, the amniotic membrane was weak for some reason.

      The fact that your water bag ruptured prematurely in your first pregnancy does not necessarily mean it will this time. Although both the premature birth of your first baby and the premature labor you have experienced in this pregnancy increase the likelihood that you’ll deliver prematurely again, the terbutaline and bed rest appear to be working well for you. Hang in there for just a few more weeks!

  6. My doctor’s nurse phoned this week to ask if I knew that my blood type was Rh-negative. I had been told this years ago but had forgotten about it. The nurse said that if my husband is also Rh-negative (we will find out this week), I have nothing to worry about. If he is not, I have to receive a shot at 28 weeks. Can you please explain why this is necessary?

    • Mary,

      Rh factor, or Rh antigen, is a substance present by heredity in the blood of most people. Only 15 percent of us lack Rh factor, or have Rh-negative blood. Years ago, babies often died from what was known as Rh incompatibility, or rhesus disease. Today, we can prevent this from happening. If both you and your husband have Rh-negative blood, then the baby will also have this blood type, and no treatment is needed. If, however, your blood is Rh-negative and your husband’s is Rh-positive, the baby may have Rh-positive blood. In this case, your body could begin producing antibodies to your baby’s red blood cells. If you have never been pregnant before, your baby would be unaffected by these antibodies. They would remain dormant and harmless unless you became pregnant again. Then, if your baby were Rh-positive, the antibodies could cross the placenta and attack the baby’s red blood cells. This could cause anemia and mild to severe jaundice in the baby. To prevent this problem, an Rh-negative mother with an Rh-positive partner receives a shot of Rh immune globulin, or RhoGAM, at 28 weeks of pregnancy and again within 72 hours of giving birth. Rh immune globulin is also given to an Rh-negative woman after a miscarriage, an ectopic pregnancy, or an induced abortion, and at the time of amniocentesis, CVS, or another invasive procedure during pregnancy. A shot of RhoGAM should be considered, too, if an Rh-negative woman experiences any significant bleeding or blunt trauma, such as from a car accident or fall, while she is pregnant. This kind of injury can also cause Rh sensitization.

  7. Tori, Thanks for all the great information I find here. My question is — I am in my 9th week of pregnancy and have been having a terrible time with dizziness and feeling faint. I have nearly fainted twice. Is something wrong with me or is this normal?

    • Sally –
      Yes, it is very normal to have periods of dizziness and or feelings of faintness, during pregnancy, especially during the early weeks. Your blood pressure tends to be lower during pregnancy and this is the cause of the faintness you are experiencing. It is important not to stand for long stretches of time or to get up too quickly after you have been sitting or lying down. This moves blood away from your brain, which results in your feeling lightheaded. Two great habits to adopt are; 1.) to roll onto your side before rising out of bed, 2.) when standing for periods of time, bend your knees often. This helps to keep your blood circulating well.

      If you are feeling dizzy or lightheaded, it is best to sit down and put your head between your knees. This helps blood to move up into your head, making you feel better. The good news is that this usually passes in the second trimester.

  8. Hi Tori,

    My son has very fair skin and he has two areas, one on the back of his neck and one on his forehead, that are reddish. My doctor called them strawberry marks and my mom said they are stork bites and nothing to worry about. What are they really?


    • Tracy,

      Your son has something called a “nevus” or a birth mark. “Strawberry nevus” or “stork bites” are pinkish/red pigment areas commonly occurring on the head or neck area. This is a condition which occurs mostly in fair skinned babies. They are not harmful and generally are hidden in the hairline. Often they fade as the child grows older.

      Darker skinned children can also have a type of pigment “nevus” known as “mongolian spots”. These are darker skin pigment areas which most commonly are seen on the low back or buttocks area. They are also not harmful.

  9. I enjoy sleeping on my back, and I have heard that I shouldn’t do this. Can you please tell me why, and at what point in pregnancy I should stop?

    • A major blood vessel known as the inferior vena cava runs up your back from your legs. It is responsible for returning blood to your heart. As your uterus and your belly grow, there is increased pressure on this vessel when you are lying flat on your back. You know that you’ve been in this position too long if you have the sensation that your legs are falling asleep or you just feel uncomfortable. As your pregnancy progresses, you will probably be more comfortable lying on your side. This position allows maximum blood flow through your body and to your placenta and baby.

      We all move around a great deal while we are sleeping. Please don’t worry if you wake up on your back; this is perfectly normal. Just reposition yourself so that you are comfortable.

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Ask Tori RN®, by registered nurse and resident author of The Joy of Pregnancy, is a helpful and reassuring resource for parents-to-be.


About Tori Kropp

Tori Kropp

Known as "the Dear Abby of pregnancy," Tori has been interviewed on national television and radio and in national print publications, including CNN, The Wall Street Journal, New York Post, Washington Times, Atlanta Journal Constitution and Chicago Sun-Times.

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