There is also a tendency for the fetal movements to appear reduced. This is mostly because the baby has increased in size and the amount of amniotic fluid is continually decreasing, a phenomenon that starts at around thirty-six weeks. The effect is that of reduced room and restricted freedom for the baby.
It is imperative, however, that any pregnant woman who feels that there is significant change in the rate of fetal activity should consult her GP to have the situation verified. If it happens today, it should be looked at today, not tomorrow or the day after.
About 80 per cent of babies will arrive at term but only a tiny proportion of these will arrive on the calculated expected date of delivery (EDD). Should this happen, it should be regarded as a pleasant bonus but should never be focused on as a realistic prospect. When an EDD is calculated, it should be made clear that the baby is expected to arrive around that date, maybe within about two weeks either way.
Braxton-Hicks contractions may start becoming more uncomfortable. The frequency may also increase. This has led many women to think they are going into labour, particularly those without previous experience. The visits to the loo increase as the womb maintains its siege on the bladder, which can hardly store a respectable amount of water before the urge to urinate arises.
Many women are told that they are not actually in labour when they are convinced they are. This is why stories of "I was in labour for five days" abound. Nobody is ever in labour for five days; it is not even
physically possible! The misconception has a lot to do with the parents not getting the right amount of information antenatally of what might happen at the end of the pregnancy.
There is a phase loosely termed "the latent phase of labour". This can be mild, easily whiled away with a drink, a lengthy soak in the bath and a favourite activity. It can also be quite distressingly painful, requiring use of very strong painkillers in hospital. It can last less than an hour but may also go on for eighteen to twenty-four hours. This is all normal.
When a midwife or doctor performs a vaginal examination for the first time on a woman who is supposedly in labour, the aim is to establish the stage of labour. Sometimes the findings do not amount to the minimum requirement for diagnosing labour - regular contractions and the cervix dilated over 3 cm. If the findings are conveyed inappropriately, this may add to her distress - which is, of course, genuine. "You are not in labour," may, quite rightly, upset the woman, because she may take it to imply an accusation of feigning her distress.
This person will most probably be in the latent phase and not in established labour. This needs to be explained, plus the fact that its duration cannot be predicted. This is unless she has been in labour before, in which case her previous experience is a fairly good guide.
Once labour is established, the progress is expected to be steady with regular contractions, the descent of the baby down the pelvis towards the outside world, and the continual dilatation of the cervix. In the majority of cases, this is exactly what happens. In a few, the process is so fast that the mother and the midwife looking