1. Hi Tori – I am 38 weeks and 4 days pregnant with my second daughter. Is there anything i can do to prepare my cervix more for delivery and/or initiate labor because i’m at the point where i can’t sleep anymore. I have a 15 month old daughter to chase around, and I would like to just have my baby on the outside rather than inside! My doula said primrose oil, and told me to take 1,000mg orally and then insert 1,000mg into my vagina at nght to help soften my cervix and ripen it. I’ve tried castor oil, though it’s been around 10 days since i’ve tried that. Should i try it again? Did i try too early? My baby is dropped, I’m 80% effaced and 2.5-3 cm dialated…my body just needs a PUSH to get going. HELP PLEASE!!!!

    • Ah– I feel for you, Brianna. The last weeks of pregnancy can be very challenging. I think in many ways preparing you to “want” labor due to the discomfort of those last moments of pregnancy.

      I wish that I had a magic answer. Although primrose oil can soften the cervix it has no bearing on when you will go into labor. Since effacement is the softening of the cervix and your cervix is already 80% effaced, you need no more softening. I’m afraid castor oil is not the magic potion either. Since castor oil stimulates the bowel, if your body is ready to labor, it can get things going. The key is “if your body is ready” which it sounds like yours just isn’t. The real downside of castor oil is that it can really give you cramps and loose stools which is just more unpleasant.

      Sex sometimes gets things going due to the prostaglandins in semen but again, only “if your body is ready”. The best possibility is for your practitioner to “strip your membranes” which means that he or she performs a vaginal exam and slightly separates your amniotic sac from the uterine wall. Again, this is an attempt but not a sure thing.

      I suspect that your baby just isn’t ready to be born yet. She just may need a little more growing time. If you can, I encourage you to let nature take it’s course, hard as that is. Please let me know when you give birth and how things go. I wish you all the best.

  2. Amy

    Could you tell me a little about sciatica in pregnancy? What causes it? What makes it worse? What helps eliminate it? What can you do to keep it from flaring up? Once you get it, does it last the entire pregnancy? And why do you only get it on one side or the other? Mine began at 22 weeks. At first, it felt like just a burning sensation in the buttocks, but if I do much walking, I also get shooting pains down my leg.

    • Sciatic pain—or sciatica, as it is sometimes called—is probably one of the most painful conditions associated with pregnancy. Your sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in your body. It passes from your pelvis on either side and down the back of your thigh, where it divides into smaller nerves. You can pinch and injure the nerve in many ways; during pregnancy, however, compression of the nerve from the baby’s position is the most likely cause of sciatic pain. You are probably feeling the pain on the side where the compression is.

      Although you can’t prevent sciatic pain, you may notice that certain positions and activities will either aggravate it or make it better. Sciatica can be completely debilitating when it flares up. Warm or cold packs, physical therapy exercises, pillows under your hip, and lying with your hips elevated may all help to relieve the discomfort, though none of these is a sure bet. Sciatica usually does not last throughout the entire pregnancy; it often disappears completely when the baby changes position. If this doesn’t happen, your sciatic pain should resolve completely when the baby is born.

  3. I am pregnant with my second child. My first child was born by cesarean section under general anesthesia because of fetal distress. For this second baby, I will be having another cesarean, but my doctor told me that he would rather I have a spinal anesthetic than go to sleep. My question is this: Are there any side effects from a spinal? The thought of a needle going near my spine is quite scary!

    • Except in emergencies, spinal anesthesia is usually preferred over general anesthesia for cesarean births. General anesthesia has no long-term effects on babies, but if they are exposed to it in the uterus for more than a few minutes, they can be quite sleepy at birth. Spinal anesthesia works quickly and lasts for only a couple of hours. It is very safe for the baby.

      The thought of a needle in the back can be frightening. I hope that by explaining the process of spinal anesthesia, I can ease your fears about it. An anesthesiologist administers a spinal anesthetic by placing a specially designed needle through the membrane outside your spinal fluid in the lumbar region of your back (well below the end of your spinal cord.) The doctor injects a numbing medication directly into the spinal fluid. A spinal differs from an epidural in that, with a spinal, the needle passes through the membrane where the spinal fluid is; with an epidural, it does not. Also, with an epidural a tiny catheter is inserted. This allows more doses to be given for longer pain relief. Both procedures produce numbing from the breasts or belly button down to your toes.

      Fewer than 4 percent of women who have spinal anesthesia get a “spinal headache,” which occurs after a small amount of spinal fluid leaks out. This problem is corrected with a “blood patch,” in which a small amount of the woman’s own blood is injected into the area.

  4. As a cat owner, I have heard about toxoplasmosis, but I’m wondering what other risks animals may pose for pregnant women or infants. We have a dog and two cats.

    • Pets pose few dangers during pregnancy or childhood. Of course, they must be kept healthy and clean. Dogs and cats should be appropriately vaccinated. All the animals must be friendly and safe for children to be around, and even a friendly dog shouldn’t be left alone with a baby or toddler. Animals that do not tolerate children well should not be part of a human family. Most cats pay little attention to a baby. Your cats need to know, though, that the baby’s bed is not a place for them to be. Once your baby is crawling and walking, make sure that the litter box is tucked away somewhere where he can’t get to it. As your child grows, teach him to wash his hands thoroughly after handling any pet.

      Lastly, enjoy your animals. They are a part of your family, and by growing up with them, your child will learn to love all of nature’s creatures.

  5. Hi Tori, I am 6 weeks pregnant. Yesterday, I went for an ultrasound and all they could see was just a flickering of the heartbeat. Everything else seems to be alright. I have already had one miscarriage in the past. What does the flickering mean? Is it a matter of concern. Pls help!!

    • Congratulations! I would not be concerned about what you saw. 6 weeks along is very, very early to identify a solid heartbeat. The advancement of technology is both a blessing and a curse. It can make us worry about things that we likely don’t need to. I would wait until your next appointment which should be in about 4 weeks. My guess is that you will see a strong, beautiful heartbeat then!

      Please let me know!

  6. How many weeks along will I be when my doctor can hear my baby’s heartbeat?

    • Many physicians now have ultrasound scanners in their offices. With these machines, it is usually possible to see the baby’s heart beating at 6 to 8 weeks. Most ultrasound scanners have amplifiers, so you can hear as well as see the heartbeat by this early date. If your doctor or midwife doesn’t have an ultrasound scanner, he or she will listen with a Doppler, a small, ultrasonic device that amplifies the sound of the baby’s heartbeat. With a Doppler, it’s sometimes possible to hear the baby’s heartbeat at 6 to 8 weeks, but it’s much easier to do so at 11 or 12 weeks.

  7. Hi Tori, I am 31 weeks pregnant and since about 28 weeks I have noticed that the lips of my vagina are very swollen and irritated. This is my 3rd pregnancy and my daughter is very low compared to my other two. Also, the inside of my vagina is irritated and red and I have some burning and itching. Please help me, because I want to know what I am going through.

    • Hi Lydia,

      I’m sorry you are so uncomfortable. A couple of things could be going on. You could have some vulvar varicosities (enlarged blood vessels) which can cause swelling and pain or pressure on the lips of your vagina. However, the burning and itchy sounds more like a yeast infection or some kind of irritation. I think it would be best to have a visit with your practitioner. They may prescribe some kind of medication or creme for the irritation. Please let me know what you find out.

  8. Hi Tori!
    Wow, I LOVE this website! I have a question for you. I am 17 weeks pregnant, and have experienced some spotting, with this sore feeling in my abdomen, and going down into my vagina. The spotting has since stopped, but I am still feeling this pressure in my vagina. I went to the emergency doctor where I live and they told me I have a low lying placenta, and said the pain is just Round Ligament pain. But is it normal to feel them pretty much all day until I lay down? Even when I’m sitting I feel the pressure in my vagina. Does being overweight cause more pains or pressure? If you could give me any insight to understand what’s going on that would be great!

    • Thank you for visiting! It sounds as though the spotting you experienced and the pain/pressure you feel at times is exactly as your doctor described. When your placenta implants at the lower portion of your uterus, you can experience spotting. As your uterus grows, the placenta is pulled up and away from the edge of the cervix and the spotting generally ends. Certainly, being overweight can cause more discomfort as well as the position of the baby. The baby may be pressing on a nerve and once the baby moves, that pressure often stops. The round ligament is one that supports the uterus. As your uterus grows, especially during a growth spurt of the baby, this ligament can be suddenly stretched and quite painful. Be sure to stay in close contact with your own practitioner to monitor any ongoing pain or spotting.

  9. Tori, this is my first pregnancy and I am concerned about the alcohol I consumed before I found out that I was pregnant. What are the possible effects, and how can I keep myself from worrying so much?

    • Many, many women have had small or moderate amounts of alcohol, taken medicines and have had a multitude of experiences prior to discovering that they were pregnant. Certainly we know that alcohol abuse during pregnancy can be harmful to a growing baby and can cause what is known as “fetal alcohol syndrome”. Unless your alcohol consumption was excessive, your baby is extremely likely to be completely healthy. I understand how hard it is not to worry but it is not good for either you or your baby. Reassure yourself by talking with your practitioner and most importantly, now that you are pregnant, stay away from alcohol and drugs and enjoy your pregnancy. It is such a special time.

  10. I was told by an ultrasound technician that I have an anterior placenta. What exactly is this? Is it why the baby’s heartbeat is sometimes hard to find, and why I don’t feel as much movement as other women who are 19 weeks along? Also, does my being overweight make it harder to feel the baby kicking?

    • A placenta can implant in any number of places, including at the top of the uterus (the fundus), at the back of the uterus (posterior), or, in the case of placenta previa, in the lower portion of your uterus, covering your cervix. Having an anterior placenta means that it has implanted along the front portion of your uterus, directly under your belly button. An anterior placenta is perfectly normal, and yes, it is the reason you do not feel the baby’s movements as much as other women do. Instead of kicking directly against your abdominal muscles, the baby is kicking and pushing against the placenta. This softens the impact for you, as if you were cushioned by a pillow inside. This is also why it is sometimes hard to locate your baby’s heart-beat. My Alexander had an anterior placenta, and I was a bit disappointed that I did not feel him moving around much. If you have a layer of fat on your abdomen, this further cushions the baby’s movements.

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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.

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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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