“Abdominal palpation” is the technical term for what a midwife does when s/he feels a pregnant woman’s tummy.
What do I feel for when I do this?
I am checking the size and position of the baby, to see that the baby is growing well.
I measure from the top of the pubic bone right up to the top of the uterus to see that the uterus is growing in size – this usually corresponds to the growth of the baby and is a measurement that is made with a tape measure.
I am also feeling to see that there is a normal amount of fluid around the baby.
I ask the woman about her movements – whether her baby is moving as often as s/he normally moves, and if she notices a regular pattern of these movements.
I also listen with a doppler or pinard so that we can hear the heartbeat.
The check itself only takes a couple of minutes, but it is an important check for monitoring the progress of the pregnancy.
The findings of the assessment are recorded in the woman’s antenatal card which is a hand-held record, and also in my midwifery notes.
We also talk about the findings and the health of the baby.
I am generally not concerned about the presentation of the baby until much later in pregnancy. Presentation refers to the part of the baby that is coming into the pelvis first. It is usually a head, but it could be a bottom if the baby is breech. Most babies spend some time in the breech position, and this is perfectly normal. After 36 weeks, if the baby was breech, we would talk through options for a vaginal breech birth.
I am most concerned about the position of the baby (that is, whether the baby is posterior or anterior) during labour. Before labour, there is a lot for time for the baby to easily change position so it makes no sense to worry women about a posterior baby in pregnancy when everything points to the baby changing its position late in pregnancy and during labour. I find that the majority of posterior babies turn in labour.
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