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</script> Birthing in Goats
At the end of the information enjoy the photos of my newest babies right after birth.
Solving the Mysteries of Obstetrics, Maxine Kinne ** April 23,1997
Obstetrics can be scary, especially for less-experienced goat owners. Nothing is more rewarding than watching a doe through classic labor and easy delivery. Unfortunately, each doe has a time-table all her own and won't be hurried. She makes us guess when something wonderful is going to happen or when things are going wrong. Many times you need to intervene to decide what's going on. A brief exam confirms how things are going, and early intervention offers the best chance for a successful outcome. This is the introductory article in a series about hands-on OB. We'll start with terminology, stages of normal labor, features of dystocia (kidding problems) and the exploratory exam. The series will teach you what to look for, what to do, and when to do it. Even the easiest kidding doe can encounter trouble. If you are breeding Pygmy goats, you should develop the skills to identify problems and either handle them yourself or call for professional help. You have waited five months for this event, and this sure isn't the time to blow it. Eventually, you may develop enough experience to know when a specific problem is genetic, nutritional, structural or a combination of the three. Does with such problems, and their sons and perhaps their sires, should be permanently prevented from breeding. Dystocia has become prevalent in the breed partly because does and bucks unfit for breeding have not been culled.
End of Pregnancy and First Stage Labor
Like pregnancy, a successful birth is marked by inevitable progress, each stage leading to the next. It may seem difficult to recognize the end of one stage and the start of the next. When a process stops, intervention is probably necessary.
There are three stages of labor: 1) preparatory physical changes, 2) expulsion of the fetus(es), and 3) expulsion of the fetal membranes. Each stage has many features. At the end of gestation, obvious physical changes can be seen in the doe 's udder, pelvic ligaments and vulva. It is very helpful to feel the udder and ligaments each day for at least a week before the due date so that differences will be noticeable. When a ^ fetus is ready, it sends a hormonal signal to end the pregnancy. This starts a complex cascade of hormonal events which leads to birth. Male fetuses may send this message a few days sooner than females, and multiple fetuses usually initiate labor sooner than singles. In the hours directly before birth, the fetus adopts its birth posture. Genetic, hormonal and nutritional differences make mammary system development unique to each doe. Mammary growth may be noticed as early as two months into the pregnancy, but some does develop little until just before or after birth. Individual does may or may not repeat similar development in other pregnancies because fetal numbers/genders in the litter also influence udder development and milk quantity in each lactation. Under the same feeding and management conditions, you may notice more udder development in does carrying multiple males rather than singles or multiple females. If you are accustomed to feeling the texture and content of the udder, you will probably detect a change in its size and texture up to 24 hours before birth. The udder may feel slightly to very noticeably more full and tense than it did the day before.
During the last month of gestation, the hormone relaxin gradually soften s the pelvic ligaments to eventually allow relaxation of the birth canal. A day or two before parturition, the ligaments may be difficult to feel. When birth is imminent, it is unusual, but not abnormal, to be able to feel the ligaments. A ligament on each side attaches at the spine, about halfway between the hips and pin bones; they angle backward and away from the spine. (Image a peace symbol.) In males and non-pregnant females, pelvic ligaments feel very taut, much like guitar strings. If you learn to feel for them, you will have a better idea of how close your doe is getting to delivery. Closer to birth, the doe's slope of rump changes to become steeper, both from side-to-side, and from the hips to the tail. Angulation in her hind legs will straighten to varying degrees. Within a few hours of birth, most does walk very loose in the rear legs and move more slowly than usual. (Except when you're trying to get behind them to get a look at the "business end"... ) The perineum (see terminology below) often bulges in the Pygmy doe in the last month of gestation. Within 24 hours of birth, this bulge subsides somewhat. The vulva loses tone and appears longer and flatter.
The perineum can often been seen to twitch. As the cervix begins to dilate, the cervical seal usually liquefies and leaks from the vulva. This discharge is not a reliable sign, as some does pass the entire, thick cervical plug stuck to the first amniotic sac. The quantity, consistency and color of the discharge, and the length of time a doe passes the discharge is highly variable, although individuals tend to repeat behavior and physical signs in subsequent parturitions. Recording these signs-in a notebook for review before a doe's next birth is helpful in watching for her previous signs. The discharge is typically thin and clear, the color and consistency of a raw egg white. As the first stage of labor progresses, it may develop a white, milky color and then a yellowish-tan. At the yellow ish-tan stage, birth is not far off. As the color changes, so does the consistency - it thickens as birth approaches. Unusual discharges may or may not indicate trouble. A slightly bloody discharge is not necessarily a problem, but the doe should be watched closely. Blood-tinged discharge usually means that the birth is close. A brownish discharge, especially if it is thick and ropy, should be viewed with alarm as this often signals the presence of a dead fetus which may or may not accompany live ones. Seek professional attention. Behavioral changes are common during the first stage of labor. A doe inlate gestation often goes off by herself or prefers the company of her mother, daughters or litter sisters.. She may be in apparent discomfort and grind her teeth as a symptom of pain. Her respiration rate will be faster than usual. She may or may not eat, paw at the ground, lie down on either side and rise any number of times, and lick or bite at her sides. When a doe begins talking in her "mother voice," only heard just before and after parturition, kidding is very close. At this point, a doe will often lick the owner and allow her udder to be fondled. Some does are quite sneaky about the whole thing and give few overt signs. If you are observant, they won't fool you.
Uterine contractions begin during the first stage of labor. Contractions often start weak and grow steadily stronger. A doe may briefly stretch while she is standing, or she may lay down and hold her breath for a moment. When abdominal contractions become more forceful, the doe may bellow with each one.
Normal Birth - Second Stage Lab
The second stage of labor begins with the appearance of a fluid-filled sac. The fetus is carried inside two separate sacs, the chorion and amniotic membranes. Unless specified in the rest of the article, I will loosely refer to them as (fetal) membranes. The chorionic membrane ruptures its thick, slippery fluid first, either inside the uterus or appearing at the vulva as a "balloon". If it ruptures inside, the only other membrane you will is the amnion unless it also ruptures inside the doe. If either membrane breaks inside the uterus, the doe usually dribbles the unique-smelling fluid. When you're not sure whether a doe is urinating or has ruptured a membrane internally, smell it. Many does rise to lick this fluid for variable lengths of time. For abdominal presses (contractions), a doe usually lies on her side with both hind legs extended and often bellows with her expulsive efforts. An occasional doe stands or squats to contract. The strength and duration of the contractions usually increase in intensity as the timing between them decreases. If you time contractions, do not be alarmed by short resting intervals followed by slightly longer ones. General progress is the important thing. A fetus may follow the appearance of the amniotic sac almost immediately, or it may take more contractions for it to enter the birth canal. The birth canal lays between the vulva and the pelvic brim, and the uterus is just beyond. The Pygmy doe's birth canal is quite short, and there is usually no mistaking when a head enters it. The head may be accompanied by one or both front legs (see anterior presentation). If the head is out with no legs, insert the length of one finger beside the head and feel all the way around the head for a foot. A foot beside the neck can be gently extended to streamline the bulk in the birth canal and make room for the fetus to advance. In a normal birth, the fetus should slip out with a few extra contractions.
Posterior presentations are normal if both hind feet are delivered first; they are called breech if the legs are folded underneath the kid. Breech births usually have to be corrected. With two hind feet out, the fetus should be extracted as quickly as possible. The umbilical cord is compressed by the birth canal and a backward fetus may gasp and inhale fluid from the uterus. Quick delivery reduces this possibility which -may result in drowning or pneumonia. Does with good pelvic capacity are usually able to deliver kids head-first when both front legs are retained. Sometimes, gentle, steady traction on the head, pulling the fetus in a downward arc toward the doe's hind legs is all that is required. If the fetus does not advance, you will have to retrieve one of its retained legs. Many veterinarians insist on extracting both front legs to accompany the head. This is not necessary in goats - the fetus is sufficiently streamlined with only one leg out. It may take too much valuable time to find and extend the second leg, and it's not worth the time or trauma to the doe. When the fetal shoulders are bulky, it can be advantageous to position one front leg alqngside the fetus to reduce the bulk. Some does rise and turn attentively to the newborn immediately. Others remain recumbent until the newborn makes a noise. For up to a few minutes following birth, you can feel a pulse in the still-attached umbilical cord. The doe is transferring the last oxygen-rich blood from the placental cotyledons into the kid. It is important not to sever the cord until this transfer is complete and the umbilicus collapses. If it is imperative to move the kid before blood transfer is complete, the umbilical cord may be tied off securely (dental floss is good) about two inches from the kid's belly and again one inch beyond that. The cord can be safely cut between the two ligatures. Severing a pulsating umbilical cord without tying it off twice, once for the kid and once for the mother, will result in blood loss from both the mother and the fetus. Normal timing between fetuses is extremely variable, ranging from almost immediately to about 90 minutes. Good mothers can be so attentive to the first kid that they take a long time before starting on the next delivery. Does should be watched closely for signs of the next delivery. If a fetus is not in a good position, the doe may show few signs of delivering. If you suspect additional fetuses, 60 minutes after the birth of the first is the longest you should wait to check for others. Nursing and milking stimulate uterine contractions. The hormone oxytocin acts only to make the uterus contract and the milk-producing cells to let down milk. So, a first kid who nurses can hasten the delivery of another by provoking this oxytocin response. Oxytocin causes extremely hard uterine contractions and should never be given to a doe in labor. The strength of these contractions can force a fetus through the uterine wall and into the body cavity. The most reliable way to find out if there is another fetus is to feel inside the doe. A finger exam may tell you enough. If not, check inside the uterus with a clean, well-lubricated hand and forearm (nails clipped short and jewelry removed!). First, wash the doe's perineum, then prepare your hand and forearm. Hold her tail up and out of the way. Press your fingertips together to make a gradual entry. Gently advance your hand until it is inside the uterus. Spread your fingers wide apart in a fan shape and gently rotate your hand back and forth a few times. An empty uterus jiggles like a bowlful of jelly, but an extra fetus is enough weight to prevent the jiggle. Introducing your hand into the uterus is a good way to introduce bacteria, so a course of antibiotic treatment is well advised. Consult your veterinarian for recommendations on antibiotic therapy. "Bumping" is a slightly less dependable way to locate another fetus. Stand behind the doe and lift her abdomen just in front of the udder with your fingers spread apart. With a slight up-and-down motion, you may feel the bulk of another fetus. If the doe has done her job alone, it is unnecessary for you to examine her. Successful completion of the third stage of labor indicates that she is all done.
Third Stage Labor
This stage of labor starts after the last kid is born and ends when the placenta(s) have been expelled. Most does pass the first placenta within two hours after the last kid, and all should have been expelled by 3 hours. It is rare to expel a placenta between fetuses, but it occasionally happens. There may be one placenta for all of the fetuses, one for each, or any other combination. It is common to have two placentas for triplets, one nearly twice the size of the other. Average placental weight for Pygmy does is 0.6 pounds for one fetus and 1.1 pounds for two. An occasional a doe may appear to be done kidding, but the placenta does not completely deliver. Membranes can often be dislodged by lifting the abdomen in front of the udder or elevating the whole front end. Do not pull on them. Retained membranes may indicate the presence of a retained fetus. If the membranes do not advance for an hour, the uterus should be examined. Does should not be allowed to eat placenta as it may cause digestive upsets for up to two weeks following the birth. Deaths have been recorded due to a placenta blocking the digestive tract.
In the "Handbook of Veterinary Obstetrics," (1995) P.G.G. Jackson says, "The dividing point between eutocia [normal birth] and dystocia is not always clear cut... In many cases both mother and fetus share responsibility for a problem and in some cases it may be difficult to pinpoint the exact cause." He goes on to say that some breeds may be particularly prone to dystocia. for example, some brachycephalic breeds (short, wide heads). He cites other examples in which sensible breeding practices and legislation have reduced the incidence of fetopelvic disproportion. Dystocia may occur at any stage of labor. Suspect a problem when progress stops. When a doe in active labor gives up and does not produce more contractions, it may be a sign that the uterus has ruptured. Call a veterinarian. Many veterinarians have little or no experience with normal birth in goats and depend on the owner to recognize dystocia. S/he will appreciate your calling about a problem early, while there is a good chance for a favorable outcome. Each time your veterinarian or an experienced breeder delivers a dystocia for you, ask his/her opinion of the cause and recommendations about breeding the doe again. In the course of a C-section due to pelvic insufficiency in an adult doe, the veterinarian can be asked to remove her ovaries to make her a non-breeding pet. If your does have trouble when bred to a buck who produces too large, too heavy-boned, too big-headed or blocky kids, quit using him! Use bucks that sire more easily deliverable kids. Learn to recognize and cull does who can't kid with a modicum of normalcy. Look for solutions to your problems so you can develop a relatively easy-kidding, trouble-free herd. Sometimes, owners are their own worst enemy and do a number of things that cause too much stress for the doe going into labor. Loud or unusual noises and moving the doe out of her normal environment is extremely stressful and seriously interferes with the progress of labor. As previously mentioned, oxytocin causes uterine contractions. Adrenaline is produced in stressful situations. Adrenaline cancels oxytocin and stops labor. When the doe is stressed, the chance is very great that she will have problems. Does should be afforded the opportunity to give birth in their normal environment, with as little outside interference and noise as possible. Some does appreciate their owner's company during labor and others resent it. Learn to tell the difference between individuals. As soon as a problem is suspected, the doe should be checked manually for the cause. The earliest time for an exam is about 20 minutes after the first membranes rupture and no deliverable fetal parts have appeared, such as the head or hind legs. Inserting a clean finger or two into the vagina is sometimes enough to identify a body part and determine your next action. Finger pressure may stimulate the doe's contractions during the exam. Firm rings of tissue or a blockage indicate an incompletely dilated cervix (discussed below). When you examine the doe, you will feel her soft vaginal tissue and may be an unruptured membrane or a fetus. Internal structures are: the vagina, cervix, pelvic brim (bone) and uterus. The doe does not usually object to a digital exam, but an entire hand provokes the same behaviors as delivering a kid (straining and bellowing). Fetuses can be turned in any direction you can imagine, and you may or may not be able to identify a fetal part with one finger. The head always feels hard. If the head is right side up, the teeth are on the bottom. A two-clawed hoof is easy to recognize, but you won't be able to tell whether it's a front or a hind leg without feeling up to the knee or hock. Or you may feel a spine, a pointy hock, ribs, or an unrecognizable mass - a thigh, neck, abdomen, etc. If a kid is misplaced, you must either correct the dystocia yourself or summon qualified help. After an unsuccessful digital exam, wash and lubricate your hand and for earm to examine the doe more extensively. As stated before, gently but firmly insert your clean, lubricated hand into the doe until you feel a fetus. The doe will probably push and bellow as you insert your hand - go slowly and stop while she contracts. Relax, close your eyes and identify what you feel. Some Pygmies have inadequate pelvic capacity and your hand will not be able to advance into the uterus. If you are unable to reach the uterus with your medium-sized (size 7) hand, it is unlikely that a fetus can be born vaginally. In this situation, call a veterinarian immediately, as a Caesarian-section is indicated. Pelvic insufficiency in a doe is an excellent reason to neuter her buck kids who may pass this poor structure to their offspring. Doe kids should be evaluated for pelvic sufficiency at early adulthood to determine whether or not they should ever be bred. Do not breed this doe again. You should feel some part of a fetus in the uterus if the amnion has ruptured. An intact amnion feels like a water balloon and should be broken so you can determine the position of the fetus. At this point, you have up to two hours to extract a live kid, but the time may be much shorter.
The correct order of basic obstetric maneuvers are retropulsion, extension/reposition and traction. It is often necessary to gently repel the fetus to have enough room to reposition it for delivery. It is often helpful to let gravity work for you. Standing the doe up usually lets the fetus slide back a little ways, but you may have to push it gently back to gain room to correct malposition. Traction, or pulling, can be done with your hand or obstric equipment, depending on the type of dystocia. Do you feel front legs or hind legs? Each joint of the front leg bends in the same direction. Look at your does hind leg and feel the fetal leg at the same time. If you have one or both front legs there has to be a head. It can be laid back against either side of the fetus at any degree or tucked under the chest. Is that a tail or an ear? Ears are thinner and have a canal and a head attached. An eye will be somewhere near. Is the head rotated to the side, or even upside down or is the whole kid positioned off kilter? Are the muzzle and one or two feet lodged at the pelvic brim? The elbows are probably bent and the fetus needs to be gently repelled to correct the impaction. Attempts to identify the fetal parts and position should not exceed a few minutes. If you work for a total of 15 minutes to identify, reposition and extract the fetus and will not be able to deliver it within the next 5 minutes, it's time to summon help.
Many factors interfere with complete cervical dialation- hormones, malpresented fetus, excess pelvic fat, age, ect. The cervix usually relaxes completely against the vaginal wall. Incomplete dialation can be any degree, from size of the tip of your finger to almost completely open. Incomplete dialation is identified by a firm ring of tissue through which the " water" can break. Manual dialation may result in severe damage. Call a professional to manually dialate a cervix.
http://www.npga-pygmy.com/OBpartl .htm 2/24/2003
Amniotic sac: the inner membrane of two (see chorion) enclosing the fetus during gestation
Chorion: the outer membrane of two (see amnion);
Cotyledons: reddish bumps on the placenta which attach it to the uterine wall
Dystocia: inability of the dam to deliver by her own efforts
Fetopelvic relationship: relation of fetal size to the dam's pelvis
Fetus: an unborn kid
Flexion: any bent or deviated extremity which is not extended for delivery (opposite of extension)
Gestation: the duration of pregnancy (145-155 days is normal for Pygmy goats)
Intervention: assisting the birth
Parturition: giving birth
Parity: the gestation number, defined by the number of previous pregnancies. (First parity is the
first birthing, fourth parity is the fourth birth.)
Perineum: hairless area surrounding the vulva
Retained: not extended
Traction: steady pulling force
This is about 10 minutes after Penny's birthing was completed.