“Am I in Labor?” – with Dr. Michelle Santoyo

Dr. Michelle Santoyo and Dr. Fox sit down to share what they tell their patients as they reach the ends of their pregnancies. How can patients tell if they’re in labor? When should they call their doctor? What does Hollywood get wrong about labor? Listen to learn the answers to these questions and more.

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In this episode, Dr. Fox and Dr. Michelle Santoyo discuss how women can tell whether or not they’re in labor and what they share with their patients as they reach the end of their pregnancies.  

Dr. Santoyo explains that when patients are approaching 37 weeks, she advises them to look for signs including contractions, a gush of fluid, and bleeding. However, labor looks different for every patient. As Dr. Fox says, “pregnancy is a surprising situation for all of us,” and it’s hard to predict whether labor will start soon. Early contractions can range anywhere from a day to a few months before the baby is born. However, most patients can expect that during labor, contractions will become more painful and regular, typically being 4-5 minutes apart and lasting about a minute.  

The technical, medical definition of labor is when contractions are regular and the cervix has started opening. However, patients won’t know whether their cervix has started to open, so Dr. Santoyo says “when in doubt, call us.” An OBGYN will be able to advise whether or not a patient should come in to the hospital to get checked out.  

In addition, Dr. Santoyo and Dr. Fox discuss water breaking. They explain that the water breaking is not always obvious; some patients experience a “constant trickling” after a large gush of fluid, which is a more clear-cut sign, but this isn’t always what happens. When it isn’t obvious whether the water has broken, the doctor will usually ask the patient to come into the office or hospital to get checked out. However, they add that the water breaking is not like it’s depicted on TV, where “when the water breaks, the baby comes right away.”  

Dr. Fox explains PROM, or a situation where the patient’s water breaks, but they’re not in labor. This can increase the risk of infection for the baby if too much time passes, so labor is often induced at this point. Patients in this situation often worry that inducing labor increases risk of a C-section, but Dr. Fox explains that research shows this is a myth.  

Dr. Michelle Santoyo is a board-certified OBGYN who joined Maternal Fetal Medicine Associates in New York City in February 2019. Dr. Santoyo completed medical school at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and residency at North Shore University Hospital. She is a full-time attending physician.