Reel Doctor Talk

Is she in LABOR?

By Smitha R. Chadaga MD

In medical school it becomes apparent fairly quickly that certain people are meant for certain fields.  It was clear to all I was destined to go into internal medicine. So much so people called me “med head”.  They especially called me that on my ob/gyn rotation which worked for me because pregnant patients intimidated me just a bit. In fact I almost missed the humor in episode eleven of season one of Superstore (@NBCSuperstore) when Amy (America Ferrera, @AmericaFerrera) and Jonah (Ben Feldman, @WhosBenFeldman) argue over whether Cheyenne (Nichole Bloom, @nichole_bloom) is having active labor or Braxton Hicks contractions. I kept thinking – focus on the pregnant lady! Does it matter if Cheyenne was in active labor or having Braxton Hicks contractions? What’s the difference? Quite a bit actually.


Labor is divided into 3 stages:

Stage 1 – the cervix dilates

Stage 2 – the baby is born

Stage 3 – the placenta is delivered


Stage 1 of labor is divided into three phases:

Phase 1: Early Labor - can last from hours to days, contractions are 5-20 minutes apart lasting 30-45 seconds, and the cervix goes from 0-3 cm of dilation

Phase 2: Active labor - lasts hours, contractions are 2-5 minute apart lasting about a minute, and the cervix goes from 4-7cm of dilation

Phase 3: Transition - lasts minutes to hours, contractions are close together, and the cervix goes from 8-10cm of dilation


But what does any of this have to do with Braxton Hicks contractions? Braxton Hicks contractions are irregular uterine contractions that can start about half way thru the pregnancy.  They are usually short in duration and do not come at regular intervals.  Those who have had both Braxton Hicks contractions and labor contractions report that Braxton Hicks are less intense.


And while I might have been able to help Cheyenne figure out if she was in labor, I would have never picked towels out as well as Mateo (Nico Santos, @nicosantoscomic):