Q. I am about 28 weeks pregnant with my second child. My first pregnancy was normal. This time I have been having nothing but problems. I went into premature labor a week ago. I was told I have placenta previa and that this time I might have to have a C-Section. I am not worried about getting cut, but I am worried about the needle in my back. I have heard that women who have epidurals have back problems later in life. Is this true?
A. I, too, was initially concerned about having a big ol' needle in the spine. Not only did it sound creepy and painful, but I was afraid of spine injury or paralysis. My fears diminished quickly when I found that the chances of that actually happening were just about the same as if a house fell from the sky and flattened me. One recent study on the subject showed no cases of paralysis or spine injury in 500,000 births assisted with the epidural.
And, the creepy and painful part was really not bad at all. Contractions, and getting relief from contractions, were the only thing that I could focus on during labor. Having a needle put into my spine seemed so trivial at the time. I didn't care if the needle had to be administered through my eyeball! A small pinch of the needle (the initial novocaine shot) was all I felt. It was no more uncomfortable than having blood drawn.
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Q. I am 28 weeks pregnant and have been having really bad dreams about having a miscarriage. I have heard that if I deliver this baby now it has a 90% chance of living. Is this true?
A. Although I'm not sure exactly what the percentages are, your chances of delivering now and bringing home a normal, healthy baby are excellent. If you do have a premature delivery, you may have to remain in the hospital for a number of days or weeks depending on the condition of you and your baby.
Of course every day in the womb increases your baby's chances for a fuller, healthier development, so you should be on the lookout for signs of premature labor. If you notice menstrual-like cramps, lower back pain or pressure, or a change in vaginal discharge, contact your doctor ASAP to take preventative measures against full-on labor.
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Q. I am 34 weeks pregnant with my second child. When I was 30 weeks, I started feeling period-like cramps, so I went to the hospital. I went into premature labor, which they had to stop. They also gave me steroid shots to help develop the baby's lungs. At the time, I was told the baby had dropped. I still feel these cramps and every time the baby moves I feel it in my vagina. I've also had leaking of fluids when this happens and feel lots of dull pain in my lower back. When I have a contraction, half the pain is in my back and half is in my stomach. Should I go to the hospital if I keep getting these symptoms?
A. Since you have had leakage of fluids accompanied by labor-like cramping, I think you should go to the hospital now. It sounds as if you are in labor. The fluids could be from the amniotic sac. If this is the case, then you should deliver within the next 48 hours or so to avoid possible infection.
At your stage of pregnancy, the baby has an excellent chance of survival. Normally, in the eighth month there is a small chance that the baby's lungs may not be fully developed, but since you had the steroid shots, your baby's breathing capacity should be very good.
The worst-case scenario is that you are not in active labor, the leakage of fluids is just urinary incontinence and the doctors will send you home to wait for real labor.