Story by Jess and Beatrice
During our routine OB check up at 39+2, the ultrasound showed I had low amniotic fluid. We had been avoiding ultrasounds other than the compulsory ones but so close to term, and with the fundal height measuring small, we agreed to a last minute ultrasound. I wonder if my labour experience would have been different if we opted to not get one as per our usual routine. Our OB sent us immediately to do a CTG and a proper ultrasound at a specialist to double check and we had been booked to go back to the OB a few hours that same day to review the results. Our CTG was ok but it turned out we had an AFI of 5 (instead of 8 recommended).
AFI levels help cushion the baby during contractions and a low level means that there’s a risk that either the baby won’t be protected during labour or could be a sign that the placenta is no longer working properly. Both of these risks basically led to the OB suggesting that I get induced on the same day and deliver the baby ASAP.
During the two tests we did that same day, we did a lot of research on AFI levels and read a few people that were induced with low AFI levels ended up needing caesareans.
After doing the Calmbirth course, my husband and I really wanted to do a natural birth, and I also knew that I hadn’t been drinking very much so I was hoping it was just due to dehydration. We decided to get retested in 2 days against the OB’s recommendation, and had to sign a waiver acknowledging that we were risking stillbirth. That was a very sobering moment where we did feel a little conflicted about our decision. We weren’t medical experts, and were we taking unnecessary risk with our child’s life? That said, I wanted to do the birth my way, and didn’t want to be induced if it wasn’t critically necessary.
On the morning of the scheduled tests (2am), I started having contractions so I was really happy that I could likely still have a natural labour. We went to do the CTG and ultrasound and both were ok (my amniotic fluid was slightly up from 5 to 5.9 although at first it looked like it was only 2.5 but after a contraction they found more fluid), and I thought that I could just proceed with the labour naturally, however, I got a message during my ultrasound to go back to the birthing unit as they wanted to keep monitoring the baby’s heart rate. Instead of going to my OB’s rooms, she would meet me at the birthing unit. At this point, my contractions were about 4 minutes apart and about 45 seconds long.
At the birthing unit, my OB again said that she would still like to induce me but I managed to bargain to do have my waters manually broken 1pm the next day and syntocinin 3pm. I honestly thought that given there was another 24 hours and I was 2cm dilated at this stage, I would naturally give birth before then; however, everything they say about contractions slowing down in a new environment and that coupled with me taking a bath slowed my contractions way down – to about 15 minutes apart. Also, apparently taking a bath slows you down unless you’re at least 4cm dilated which I didn’t know, and took 2 baths in the birthing unit.
Long story short, at 1pm the next day, I was still only 7cm dilated so I had my waters broken, which didn’t increase my contractions so I had syntocinin at 3pm and an epidural soon after as the pain totally skyrocketed. Prior to this I had only taken a bit of gas an hour or so earlier. What Sarah Buckley wrote in her book about Thursdays and Fridays being the most common days for induction was definitely a thing. They told me that it would be understaffed during the weekend and Friday afternoon was the latest I could push back induction safely.
All in all, while we would have preferred a natural birth, I’m happy I had about 36 hours of early labour completely naturally, before the last 4 hours where I had intervention. Baby was born healthy and we are happy and so in love with her.
I’ll never know if left to my own devices, I would have naturally given birth in my own time, or if the reason for my extremely long labour was due to my low AFI but I’ll also never know if my decision to wait for induction prevented me from getting an emergency caesarean. I’m just glad i stuck to what I wanted and that my husband supported me in the decisions I made.
Thankful for all the tips and techniques we learned at Calmbirth and the stories that have all been shared.