Whether you are a first time mom and feel clueless about what labour and delivery will entail or a seasoned veteran, each and every labour is completely different and can always throw a curve ball at you. As an OB nurse I have noticed time and again similarities in what women do that helps to ensure a positive birth experience. I would like to share some suggestions and attempt to ease some worry for all of the beautiful pregnant ladies out there that are counting down the days.
Stay Home and Sleep as Much as Possible
It is hard not to get excited during the early stages of labour when the contractions are finally getting stronger and you’re praying it’s the real deal. You want to shout it from the rooftops: “Hey! My baby is being evicted today!” And you may want to rush to the hospital right away and get checked to see your progress. But I’m telling you for your own sanity: Stay home as long as possible.
As silly as it sounds, try to ignore the labour pains. Pretend they’re menstrual cramps. If it’s at night, try to sleep through them. Trust me- you won’t sleep through active labour! Try going for a short walk around your neighbourhood, watch some Netflix with the hubby or get in the bath to take your mind off of it. If you start timing it from the very first tightening and stay up all night pacing you are going to feel like you are in labour for forever and will be exhausted before you even get to the pushing stage.
For a first time mom you should think of going in to be assessed once your contractions are coming at least every 5 minutes regularly, lasting 1 minute long and have been getting progressively stronger for an hour. Of course you should always listen to your physicians recommendations and use your intuition. In my circumstance I was blessed with fast labours. I was due with my second in February and I live half an hour from the hospital, so I didn’t have the luxury of soaking in a warm bath before making my way in (I know you all feel so bad for me). The easiest way of telling if you are in active labour is if your contractions are getting progressively stronger.
Call Ahead to Your Labour Ward
It really helps on our end if we know in advance that someone is coming to us in labour so we are not running around like chickens. From your simple phone call we can assess whether you are in active labour or should stay home a bit longer (whether you can talk at all is a good indication), whether your membranes are ruptured and need to be assessed, or whether there may be any complications we should prepare for. It also gives us extra time to review your chart ahead of time. Trust me, a call ahead will make sure you get the best care as quickly as possible. If you’re in a hurry you can always call on the way!
Don’t Bring Your Aunt and Uncle
Be very careful who you choose to invite into your delivery room. This will be a time in your life where you will be at your most emotionally vulnerable and you need people that will laugh with you later about all the obscenities you were able to string together. You will yell at your spouse. Everyone in the room will see your vagina. You will bleed and leak and have bowel movements everywhere.
You will have enough going on, and the last thing you want to worry about is whether someone else is hungry or thirsty or tired. Or what the score of the game is. Or how much longer this is going to take because someone else’s legs are getting sore. Seriously. And you will not find anyone’s bickering or nuances or tapping of feet cute. Choose only one or two people in your life who are willing to be supportive regardless of how tired they are, who will not take anything you say in that room to heart and that you will feel 100% comfortable being around no matter what labour throws at you. You can always have a welcome party outside in the lobby for when it is all over.
Do Your Research Before Birth
Knowledge is power. There are many ways to become educated about the labouring and birth process prior to the blessed event: prenatal classes, educational websites, personal accounts, books, and of course most importantly my blog site. It can be very difficult to listen to a nurse’s response to your question about pain management options when contractions are coming on strong every two minutes and all you can say is “give me the drugs!” (my hubby can attest to me doing this). We will always do our best to educate in the moment but at the very least you need to know your drug of choice and whether you want to breastfeed. Extra points for knowing potential complications of labour and breastfeeding positions.
Use Your Labour & Delivery Team
Not to toot my own horn, but OB nurses and doctors are kind of big deals. Sure, we are all human and have our own personalities that perhaps may not jive with your own. But we all have one thing in common: our job is to make you comfortable during birth and to ensure you and baby come out of this happy and healthy.
We all have a bag of tricks up our sleeve that hopefully will help you, but if we aren’t doing what you want just tell us. We are easygoing and just want to make you happy. Same goes for your supports. Think of us as your minions. Need more ice chips? Just say the word. Don’t like to be touched and that back massage is making your skin crawl? Just tell us with the least amount of expletives possible and we will gladly stop.
Lastly, do not be worried about what we think or be embarrassed– we have seen and heard it all. Literally. What goes on in L&D, stays in L&D.
Be Open to All Birth Experiences
Though it is important to do some research and to have a birth plan, the women who have the most difficult time adjusting are the ones who had a step by step guide on how her labour would progress and none of those things worked out.
Some were hoping for a completely natural birth and ended up having an excruciating 25 hour labour and then beat themselves up for asking for an epidural. Others wanted no medical interventions but ended up overdue with an IV oxytocin drip and constant fetal monitoring, tied to their bed. And still others endure an emergency c-section due to fetal distress and don’t get to nurse their baby right away.
I know. It isn’t fair. But trying to be open and focusing on the end result (having your beautiful new baby and being able to touch your toes again) will help you get through the grieving process for what you had envisioned your labour to be. The most important thing to be thinking about after baby is born is bonding with babe and getting back to who you are.
As an OB nurse it is my top priority to provide the highest level of care to both mom and baby. Even with all my good intentions, things at times can easily get out of hand in the delivery room. I am hoping this information will assist readers in having the most fulfilling labour experience possible and to feel a little more in control of their own situation. Good luck and happy labouring, Mamas!