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Flashcards in Physiology of 1st Stage Deck (50)
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Describe the uterus during pregnancy

- Uterus begins to grow by hyperplasia and then after 4 months hypertrophy
- Myometrium consists of bundles of myometrial cells separated by connective tissue


What is hyperplasia?

Increased amount of organ tissue due to cell proliferation


Describe the uterus at term

- Muscle fibre density highest in fundus, reducing until cervix where there is more connective tissue than muscle
- Uterine muscle consists of longitudinal, circular and spiral muscle fibres (used as ligatures)


What does the contractile strength of the uterus relate to?

- The proportion of muscle
- Upper segment contracts stronger to push baby down


Describe the 2 segments of the uterus

- Towards the end of pregnancy
- Upper segment = formed from fundus body
- Lower segment = formed from isthmus and cervix


What is the isthmus?

Narrow passage/ organ that connects 2 larger parts


What is quiescence?

Uterine muscle has spontaneous contractibility and is never completely quiet so low intensity contractions always occur


What happens approximately 6 weeks prior to labour?

Intensity of quiescence increases; these are called Braxton-Hicks and are not associated with cervical effacement or dilation


What is cervical effacement?

Shortening, softening and thinning of the cervix


What are the 2 main functions of the uterus?

- To grow but remain quiescent (inactive)
- To commence powerful contractions at the right time


What might women notice at the end of pregnancy?

- Mood swings/ surges of energy
- Walking may become more difficult
- Relief of pressure at fundus
- Lightening
- Increased pressure in pelvis
- Nesting


What is lightening?

SFH starts to reduce as baby starts to descend towards the birth canal


Why does dilation occur?

As a result of uterine action and the counter-pressure applied by the intact bag of membranes or presenting part (or both)


How does the cervix change prior to labour?

- Cervix is rigid in pregnancy
- Connective tissue will soften
- Partial dilation of external os evident from 24 weeks but individuals vary = cervical assessment unreliable indicator of labour
- At term, 90% of cervix is water


What are the 2 elements of cervical softening?

- Increased vascularity and water content
- Structural changes in connective tissue


Describe effacement

- If softening has taken place, contractions pull on cervix, stretching it
- Effacement takes place before regular contractions
- Shortens and thins cervix so both os disappear
- Leads to inclusion of cervical canal
- Operculum (mucous plug) becomes dislodged
- Longitudinal fibres allow cervical dilation without presenting part pressure


What is a 'show'?

Blood-stained mucoid discharge (operculum) seen in early labour and small loss of red blood during transitional stage


What happens if an unripe cervix attempts to dilate?

Can cause damage to collagen fibres which can lead to miscarriage


What hormones are involved in the initiation of labour?

- Cortisol
- Progesterone
- Oestrogen
- Prostaglandins
- Oxytocin
- Relaxin


What is CRH?

Corticotrophin Releasing Hormone


What effect does cortisol have?

- Produced by anterior pituitary of foetus
- Production increases towards term
- Affects and reduces maternal progesterone production


What effect does progesterone have?

- Inhibits contractions in pregnancy
- Local changes in concentration not reflected in maternal blood; foetal membranes increase cortisol levels to reduce progesterone


What effect does oestrogen have?

- Slight rise in levels makes uterus more sensitive to oxytocin at term (receptors become unblocked and more sensitive)
- Stimulates oxytocin receptors in myometrium and gap junctions to form
- Encourages placenta to release prostaglandins to soften and efface cervix


Describe the oestrogen:progesterone ratio

- Changing ratio of oestrogen and progesterone is important for effective contractions in labour
- Increasing oestrogen/ decreasing progesterone leads to release of phospholipase A2 which releases arachidonic acid which stimulates prostaglandin synthesis


What effect do prostaglandins have?

- Occur in placenta, foetal membranes, decidua, myometrium and cervix
- Important in labour progress
- In late pregnancy, prostaglandin synthesis stimulated by coitus, VE, membrane sweep, amniotomy and labour
- Exogenous prostaglandins will ripen the cervix and induce labour


What is an amniotomy?

Artifical rupture of membranes


What effect does oxytocin have?

- Used to induce labour
- Endogenous production by nipple stimulation can initiate labour
- Receptors in myometrium increase in pregnancy
- Rapid production in labour
- Also synthesised by decidua


What is the Ferguson reflex?

Pressure in the vagina/ cervix increases oxytocin production and causes the uterus to contract/ retract


What effect does relaxin have?

- Inhibits myometrial contractility and softens joints
- Early fall in levels (high in 1st trimester)
- Associated with preterm labour
- Promotes cervical ripening towards end of pregnancy


What factors may initiate parturition?

- Response to environment
- Familial (genetic)
- Time of lunar month/ ovarian cycle
- Circadian rhythm (sleeping pattern)
- Mammals labour best at time of day they are usually resting (at night)