Amniotomy: 8 things you need to know

As surely as a woman has a fantasy about her ideal mate or an ideal job, each woman has a "dream pregnancy and birth." This fantasy starts with an easy first trimester with only minimal nausea and fatigue and moves into a carefree second trimester and a third trimester where she and her partner practice their breathing exercises together. Labor and birth would follow her birth plan precisely and the baby would be chubby, pink, and sleep through the night

In reality, not everything goes acording to plan. Unexpected circumstances can arise.In our dream labor and birth no extraordinary procedures would need to be performed. Sometimes though, interventions need to be made. One of these is amniotomy.

What is an amniotomy?
In a woman at term, the bag of waters can be artificially ruptured by "snagging" the amniotic membranes to release the amniotic fluid.

How is an amniotomy performed?
A long flat "crochet hook" device is used to "snag" the amniotic membranes and the fluid is released. The head of the baby (or the presenting part) is protected by the provider's fingers, although rarely the baby's head can be scratched by the tool. The midwife or doctor usually chooses a time apart from a contraction (or at the very end of a contraction) to perform this procedure to minimize a large outflow of water.

Is an amniotomy painful?
An amniotomy does not cause any pain because there are no nerve endings in the sac but the experience can be unpleasant because it entails an internal exam and some movement of the provider's hands. Thereafter, the mother will continue to leak fluid.


Next page: Learn reasons for an amniotomy and what criteria should be met before one is performed

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