From stitches to fetal movement: Your questions on pregnancy and birth

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We’ve partnered with Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital, a major teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School, to answer your most pressing questions on pregnancy health and well-being. Have a question you’d like our team of doctors to answer? Leave it in the comments below and the BWH staff may answer it in an upcoming article.

Q. When will I feel my baby start moving and how will I know? 

A. In the uterus, ultrasounds have shown fetuses moving as early as the middle-end of the first trimester. Maternal perception of movement grows as the fetus gains more and more weight.

Women usually start to feel movement around 20 weeks of gestation (or halfway through the pregnancy) but this can vary from woman to woman. Women perceive movement in many different ways, but in the beginning it can be more subtle and less consistent and is often describe as a feeling like “gas bubbles.” 

Movement can include limb movements, such as kicking or jabbing, or larger movements, such as rolling or turning. Any movement is fine.

You should know that all women experience movement differently, but always call your obstetrician if you have concerns about the movement or the movement of your child seems less than normal for you.

Read more: Are these gas bubbles, or is baby moving? 

Q. How will I know I’m in labor?

A. Signs of labor vary from woman to woman, as each person experiences labor differently. Some common signs of labor may include:

  • Bloody show: A small amount of mucus, slightly mixed with blood, coming from the vagina, which indicates you are in labor
  • Contractions: Contractions, which are uterine muscle spasms, occurring at intervals of less than 10 minutes, are usually a sign that your labor has begun. Contractions may become more frequent and severe as the labor progresses
  • Rupture of amniotic sac: Labor sometimes begins with amniotic fluid gushing or leaking from the vagina. If you experience a rupture of the amniotic sac, the bag of fluid inside your womb, contact your healthcare provider. Most women go into labor within hours after their amniotic sac breaks. You and your doctor may also decide to start medication to increase or augment your contractions and get labor started sooner. This step is often taken to prevent infections and delivery complications.

If you are unsure if labor is beginning, call your healthcare provider.

Read more: 5 girlfriend secrets for an easier labor

Q. How do you care for stitches after a vaginal delivery?

A. If you received stitches after childbirth, it is important to monitor them and make sure they stay clean. The best way to do this is by rinsing the area with warm water after you use the bathroom or soaking in several inches of warm water (e.g. sitz baths). You should avoid excessive activity while they heal, such as:

  • Rigorous exercise like running
  • Intercourse
  • Placing anything in the vagina, such as tampons or douching

Women typically receive stitches after giving birth as it helps to stop bleeding and close any lacerations faster. Although they can be uncomfortable, alert your doctor right away if you notice new or increasing pain, strong odor, or a pus-like discharge as these can be signs of an infection or wound issue.

Unless your physician advises otherwise, your stitches will dissolve on their own in about two weeks. In total you should expect it will take about two to four weeks for your skin to heal completely.

 

About our doctors: Louise E. Wilkins-Haug, MD, PhD is the Division Director of Maternal Fetal Medicine and Reproductive Genetics at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Sarah Elizabeth Little, MD, MPH, is a Maternal-Fetal Medicine specialist in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

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