Your baby has been practicing breathing since the 10th week of pregnancy but now the pattern has changed from short practice bursts lasting 10 seconds or so, to a regular rhythmic breathing pattern of approximately 40 breaths per minute, just as the baby will breathe after birth.
Eye movements have also matured with periods of rapid eye movement (REM) lasting for just over 25 minutes at a time and rest periods lasting just under 25 minutes. REM sleep is closely coupled with periods of increased activity and a faster heart rate. So, just because your baby is moving it doesn't always mean that he's awake.
Although your baby cannot stretch out as freely as before, movements of at least 10 times a day should continue in the same familiar pattern and are a reassuring sign of a healthy baby.
Most hospitals don't allow women in labor to eat or drink, because if you need general anesthesia, there's a risk of aspiration. But in 2008, the American College of Nurse-Midwives issued a clinical bulletin stating that allowing a woman in labor to eat or drink provides her with hydration, nutrition, comfort, and can even reduce stress. Ask your doctor if you can eat, and if so, what. A few suggestions: Choose something light, such as soup or broth, popsicles, applesauce, or ice chips-which you can chomp on even if you're not allowed food. And your partner should snack to keep his strength.
Depending on your health and the baby's condition, and many other factors (for example, you're more than 42 weeks along, you have high blood pressure, you have an infection), your doctor may induce labor. There are many ways to do this, including stripping the membranes. With a gloved finger, your doctor checks your cervix and sweeps her finger over the membranes that connect the amniotic sac and the uterine wall. The goal of this is to stimulate the release of hormones that may start labor contractions. Although this is likely to be an uncomfortable procedure, it should not cause you actual pain; you will also experience a mucus/bloodstained "bloody show" (see The "bloody show")-following stripping of the membranes, which is quite normal.
The procedure can be done at your doctor's office or in the hospital (see Induction of Labor). Your doctor will advise you closer to the time.
Excerpted from Pregnancy Day by Day.
Copyright © 2008 Dorling Kindersley Limited.
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