All About You
During pregnancy week 31, things are beginning to get tight in there, and heartburn and indigestion are common. Eat small meals more often and drink lots of water. You may have developed the pregnant "waddle"—that happens because pregnancy softens the ligaments in your pelvis, allowing your hips to spread to make room for the baby. Don't worry, you won't walk like a duck forever!
This is a good week to nail down the details of Baby's birth—if you're going to a hospital, you may be able to pre-register soon. It's no fun to stand at a counter filling out form after form while you're in labor. Do it in advance and slide right in, in style! Read our article on Choosing a Hospital.
As your baby's weight increases (she weighs over 3 pounds this week!) the strain on your body will be noticeable. Your lower back and hips ache, especially at the end of the day. A growing baby also means less room for your internal organs. You'll be taking more breaths to fill your scrunched lungs. With your shrinking tummy, meals will need to be smaller and more frequent. On a happy note, a bigger baby means you'll feel more wiggles. At times you'll be able to distinguish arms, legs, and head movements. When your baby shifts positions you may experience numbness in your legs or a sudden urge to use the bathroom.
Labor Pains: Choices in Pain Medications
Dealing with pain during childbirth used to be an all or nothing proposition—either you were knocked out completely or you felt every contraction. These days, pain medications essentially boil down to two options: analgesics, which affect the entire body; and localized anesthetics, which work on targeted parts of the body. The kind of pain medication you receive depends on a variety of factors, such as what's used at your hospital and your stage of labor. The more you know about what's available, the more likely you'll be able to receive the kind of pain medication you want during labor.
Analgesics (narcotics): Analgesics are systemic medications, meaning they act on the entire body. The medication courses through your blood stream—and your unborn baby's. Commonly used analgesics such as Demerol and Stadol won't block out all the sensations of pain but will help you feel it less intensely. Analgesics have potential side effects: they can make you drowsy, dizzy, nauseous, and light-heated. These drugs lower the heart rate for some women, putting the baby's heart rate at risk also—but a lowered heart rate happens infrequently and is treatable.
Keep in mind the drowsy effect of an analgesic can remain in your system—and your baby's—for a few days.
Anesthetics: Anesthesia encompasses a wide range of medications, injected into certain parts of the body to provide targeted pain relief. While there are several types of anesthetics, the most popular by far is an epidural. With an epidural, the anesthesiologist numbs a select area of the spine and then inserts a needle containing a small tube (catheter). Through this tube, you'll receive pain medications that should completely drown out any pain sensations. The catheter stays in place until after your baby's birth. Unlike narcotics, which enter the body through the blood stream to dull pain, but not eliminate it, epidurals block out pain messages between your body and your brain. Although the epidural can take several minutes to take effect, you should have no sensation of pain once the medication kicks in.
There are different types of epidurals. An increasingly popular option is a combined spinal-epidural (CSE). With a CSE, the anesthesiologist follows the same procedure as with a standard epidural, but also injects pain medication directly into the spine through the epidural catheter for immediate relief.
This is only a brief overview of pain medication choices. You should discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each of these pain medications with your doctor. You need to discuss your preferences before delivery day, not when you're already in labor.