What Labor & Delivery Nurses Want You to Know
Checking into the hospital can be a little scary whether this is your first baby or fourth, whether you’ve attended birthing classes or not and whether this is a planned induction or you come in laboring on your own. While every hospital has different policies and expectations, there are some general tips to make this special day even more special. Many hospitals offer tours of their labor and delivery unit and can answer specific questions that you may have before labor begins.
As labor nurses, one aspect of our job we take very seriously is advocating for what our patients want. Tricia Miller, RN, says, “We put all of our heart and soul into you and your labor process. We feel connected to you.” Your nurse wants you to have the delivery experience that you have always wanted. However, childbirth is an unpredictable thing, and things can change course at any time. Please ask questions if there is something that we have not explained well enough. “I truly believe everything in labor happens for a reason. Please keep open-minded and go with the flow,” Megan Bliss, RN, advises. “We only want to help you have a safe delivery and happy, healthy baby.”
Some hospitals have strict visitation rules and only allow two to three visitors during delivery, while others do not place limitations. Nancy Morgan, RN, tells all her patients, “Think carefully about whom you want to share in your birth experience. It's not necessary to include your second cousin's children. Sometimes too many well-wishers can detract from the remarkable experience of the birth of your child. Remember, no one will treasure this day more than you and your partner.”
I think all pregnant women will say mealtime is a very important part of the day, but during labor no food is allowed. Many doctors will allow ice chips and nothing else. If you have not been told to not eat prior to coming to the hospital, take advantage and eat something before you leave the house. Make sure that something is easy on the stomach, though, as many women do experience nausea and vomiting during the labor process. Labor can take many hours, and while you, the patient, can’t eat anything, your support person can and should eat. However, Morgan says “Don't be afraid to tell your husband, ‘No you cannot eat those hot wings in the birthing suite while I’m in labor.’”
Some doctors require their patients to be dilated a certain number of centimeters prior to getting an epidural, and others will allow it as soon as a regular contraction pattern has developed. Only one visitor will be allowed to stay in the room, and the procedure lasts approximately 20 minutes. Pain relief will begin almost immediately, with the full effect kicking in within 20 minutes. Some patients will have no feeling in their legs or abdomen, while others may feel the contractions and their legs, but have no pain. Both of these results are normal.
Bring your camera and keep it close by at all times. After delivery there are many opportunities to get “the shot” of your newborn, and you will not want to miss it.
There are many reasons why a “normal” laboring mom could be taken to the operating room for a cesarean section. Some babies do not tolerate labor for one reason or another, and for their safety, a C-section is best. Other moms do not completely dilate, or if they do completely dilate, may not be able to deliver a term infant due to size or position. If any of these complications arise, maintain an open discussion with your nurse/health care provider. Only one person will be allowed in the OR, and this person will be brought back at the time of the abdominal incision. If for any reason general anesthesia is necessary, the visitor will only be present after the surgical delivery of the infant.
You have just given birth to a beautiful baby, and now it is time to show your bundle of joy off to the world. While that sounds perfect, the first two hours after delivery are messy and overwhelming (as well as perfect). Christina Bradenburg, RN, says, “Despite your nurse’s best effort, you are going to be exposed. Every 15 minutes for the first two hours your nurse is going to pull back your covers and rub on your uterus to make sure your vaginal bleeding is under control. During this time we also want breast-fed babies to have their first feeding and spend that time doing skin-to-skin. If you have lots of visitors during this time, know that we will be asking them to step out of the room often to ensure your privacy.”
Just remember that, overall, your labor and delivery nurse is there to make your day of joy be just that—joyful. She wants you to know that she’s doing her best to provide the highest quality of care to both you and your baby. She looks forward to answering your questions and being part of your special day.
Jessica Heine is a labor and delivery nurse. She lives with her husband and two young children in Olathe.
As always, please contact your health care provider with any questions or concerns.