Part 2: Labor and Epidurals
The follow-up to Part 1: Prepping and Pre-Labor, Part 2 is a continued list of lesser-known facts and tips compiled from a few dozen moms. Active labor is one of the parts of the delivery process that can create the most anxiety in new moms, as there really is no way to know what is actually going to happen. Every experience is different, but some of these ideas might help you feel a little more prepared.
• When your water breaks, it can continue to leak for quite awhile after the initial rush of fluid. Towels and trash bags can help protect your car seats on the drive to the hospital!
• Contractions may come on strongly straight away, or might start out feeling merely like mild cramping, that sometimes can last for a few days – everyone is different
• If you are having contractions but your water hasn’t broken, and you aren’t dilated to at least 3 cm, the hospital may send you back home. It’s nothing personal, they just don’t always have room, and it might be an entire day or more before you make real labor progress.
• There is no way to know how busy a hospital is going to be when you go into labor, and there is a chance you may wind up sharing a room, or having to wait a little while to get into a room. If you’re actively in labor and they absolutely cannot get you into a room at that moment – labor away in the waiting room. Ask to turn the lights down, request a birthing ball or blankets if you want them, do whatever you can to stay calm and comfortable until a room is ready.
• When you first arrive, the staff may not be as immediately comforting as you planned – unless you are close to pushing or in the midst of intense contractions, there will be questions asked and basic information taken (which often includes questions about your mental health such as depression tendencies). It can be hard when you are emotional about finally being in labor, but it’s just protocol (see Part 1 about filling out forms in advance to cut down on this process).
• You’ll be given a hospital gown when you arrive, but if you don’t want to entirely lose your clothes yet, consider a bathing suit top that will be easy to untie and remove. You don’t want to be hassling with taking off a shirt or sports bra and untangling it from wires later on.
• If you are not jiving with a nurse, request another one. Besides your partner, if you don’t have a doula or midwife with you, the nurse is often the only other person in the room coaching you through most of your labor, so you want someone who you are comfortable with and trust. If you would like another nurse, wait through the end of their shift and ask the next nurse that comes in if they could arrange for someone else to tend to you on the next round. Personalities don’t always mix, it’s no big deal.
• Also – if you are particular about the gender of your nurse, as there are some (not a lot, but some) male labor and delivery nurses, say so from the get-go. In the middle of labor that probably will be the furthest thing from your mind, however if you would prefer a female then let the hospital know up front.
• If you don’t have an epidural, you are relatively free to move around the room as needed (you may even be encouraged to walk the halls to help move labor along)
• If you are not dilating, after awhile the nurses may suggest a Foley Catheter. This is a catheter with a balloon on one end that is inserted into your cervix. The balloon is expanded until your cervix has dilated sufficiently in an effort to progress labor.
• You can make the room your own – adjust the lights (or turn them completely off and bring flameless candles), play music, bring photos or focus objects, hang up the outfit your baby will wear home.
• If you are not progressing in your contractions and dilating, you can request nipple stimulation as an alternative/precursor to Pitocin. You can use a double breast pump (a few minutes on, a few minutes off) in attempt to stimulate contractions.
• If you think there is a chance you might want an epidural, speak up early on. If you wait too long, the epidural might not be able to be administered because it will not have time to take effect before the baby comes. Additionally, if the hospital is extremely busy, it may be some time before someone can get to you to give you an epidural, if at all.
• Epidurals can have a wide range of outcomes. Some have an effect known as a “Walking Epidural”, which mostly numb your contractions, but create an intense tingling in your legs (as if they are extremely asleep – you can’t feel them when you poke them, but still have enough control to shift your legs side to side). Other times the epidural may be such a strong dose that you will be completely numb from the chest down. If your dose feels too strong – ask for it to be lowered. Epidurals are a constant drip and can be adjusted. You want to be able to feel enough to push!
• Once your epidural is administered, you will have compression boots put on your feet and lower legs to prevent help your blood circulation and prevent clots while you are in bed.
• After your epidural drip is turned off, feeling usually returns to your legs rather quickly, though sometimes the effect of the medicine can cause temporary light tremors or shaking in your arms.
Stay tuned for the conclusion of “Labor Tips” with Part 3 next week!
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