Will my second labor and delivery be like my first?
Q: I’m 33 weeks pregnant with my second child. My first was born 13 days early without clear signs of labor, such as contractions or fluid leakage. At 37 weeks I was more than 3 centimeters dilated; at 38 weeks I was more than 5. My obstetrician broke my bag of water and I went into labor, delivering the next day. What are the chances the same thing will happen again? I know every pregnancy is different, but is every labor and delivery different as well?
Submitted by Rachel in Ponca City
A:Laura E. Stachel, M.D.
While every labor and delivery is unique, some women have a similar experience from one birth to the next. From the description of your first birth, it seems that your cervix began dilating before you were in labor. Some women have cervical incompetence, which means the cervix spontaneously stretches open as pregnancy progresses and does not require uterine contractions to dilate. Cervical incompetence increases your risk of pre-term birth.
The maximum dilation of the cervix during labor is 10 centimeters. If the cervix is already dilated at the onset of labor, less work is needed to achieve delivery; the result is a faster labor. Because you were more than 5 centimeters dilated with your first child before labor began your body had already done half the work of the first stage of labor!
In my experience, most first-time mums are well aware of the signs of true labor. I have only occasionally seen someone reach 5 centimeters dilation without much discomfort or awareness. Common signs of labor include: