Happy New Year!! I know everyone is saying this but I seriously cannot believe it is January already. I love the fresh feeling of a New Year and I have some really fun things planned for y’all that will be coming up on the blog!
First, I am finally sharing my TOP LABOR TIPS with you all! And why should you listen to me? I will start my saying I am not an expert because we always have more to learn. However, I do have six years of experience as a labor and delivery nurse and I have also delivered three babies of my own :). I have just about “been through it all” when it comes to deliveries. My first two daughters were twins, born via c-section at 37 weeks (due to breech presentation) and that was after I was treated with magnesium for preterm labor. My third daughter was a VBAC delivery (which means vaginal birth after cesarean) after I went into labor naturally. I have also spent some time with my fellow nurses with years and years of experience to make sure I left nothing out. I’m holding nothing back, so let’s dive in!
Here are my top TEN labor tips for you:
ONE. Throw your expectations out the window, and try not to have TOO much of a plan.
I am not saying that nothing is going to go the way you planned and you have no control. What I am saying, is that these babies and our bodies are going to do what they want, and when you spend a lot of time and energy planning out every detail of your delivery, you tend to only be disappointed when maybe we have to try something different. It is definitely a good idea to educate yourself, do some reputable reading, and discuss expectations with your OB doctor. But it’s probably best not to come into the hospital with a ten page birth plan… I can’t tell you why it is, but time and time again it is these patients that things tend to never go the way they planned. My personal (and professional) opinion is to come in with some general requests (i.e. epidural or not, breastfeeding or not, skin to skin or not, visitors or not, etc) and just let your nurse know what those are. As your labor nurse, we are your advocate, and we will literally do anything that is safe and possible to get your baby out safely and give you the labor and delivery experience you have always hoped for.
TWO. Two Words: Peanut. Ball.
They are basically a peanut-shaped exercise ball. See the photo above. These obnoxious looking things are like a secret weapon when it comes to getting those babies out! I believe most hospitals have them available for the patient’s to use but you might want to call and check before you deliver. Most commonly, we use the peanut ball between your legs when you are laying on your side to help open up your pelvis so the baby can get nice and low. They are ESPECIALLY helpful when you have an epidural to get that baby positioned just right so we can hopefully decrease your pushing time by letting your body push the baby lower by taking advantage of your contractions.
THREE. Have a good support person.
Whether this is your spouse, your partner, your best friend, your mom, or even your best friend’s sister’s cousin. It doesn’t matter. But it is VERY helpful to have someone there to support you throughout the process. It is also very important to make sure your support person knows what to expect when it comes to delivering a baby. Maybe do some reading together or watch some videos. ideally you would also take a birthing class together so that you are both on the same page. Birth is generally not a super fast process so make sure your person knows they probably won’t get a ton of sleep and that they should pack some snacks. They also might want to bring a blanket or a sweatshirt because the hospital is usually cold at night and our laboring Mamas usually want the room COLD. Discuss your own wishes with your support person before you go to the hospital so they know how to best support you. Do you want your back rubbed? Do you want them to talk to you during contractions? Whatever you might want, fill them in!
FOUR. This is a big one. When should you come to the hospital?
When do you know this is the real deal?? When is it really labor and WHEN should you come into the hospital? This is definitely a tricky subject but I will TRY to save you from an extra trip to the hospital because of “false labor”. IF THIS IS YOUR FIRST BABY, (we will talk subsequent babies in a second) and you are having contractions, this is how you know it is time to go in: You have been having STRONG contractions that are lasting at least 45-60 seconds AND they have been 5 minutes apart or less for at least AN HOUR. How do you know you’re having strong contractions?? You literally cannot walk or talk when they are happening. They are so strong that you can do nothing else but focus on getting through the contraction. That’s when you go! Now once you start to have contractions, try drinking A LOT (like at least a liter) of water and maybe take a shower or a bath. A lot of times your body will have contractions because you are dehydrated, but these will not put you into actual labor. So if it is the real deal, when you drink water they will not go away. Now if you have had one or two (or more) babies already, you likely will know when it is time to go; but as soon as you start to have strong and regular contractions you should head on into the hospital. Other times to go in: if your water breaks, you are bleeding like a period or passing clots, you are concerned the baby isn’t moving regularly (try having some juice first), or anything else that concerns you! It’s always better to get things checked out if you are worried. Trust your Mama gut.
FIVE. It is called LABOR for a reason. 😉
Truly. We want to make your labor as easy as possible, but it is called labor for a reason. Unfortunately, it is going to take some work to get that baby out. Just go into it knowing that this might not be easy, especially when it comes to pushing. If this is your first baby you might push for 1-3 hours. However, if you have an epidural, ideally pushing is not a painful process, but it WILL still be work. And if you do not wish to have an epidural, then you can still rock it! Whether you would like a medicated, or all natural delivery, YOU HAVE GOT THIS! Remain confident and as in control as possible. And if things don’t go as planned, that is OK! As long as you and baby are happy and healthy that is our main goal. The end result of all of this will be SO WORTH IT and you will completely forget all of the pain and work you just went through as soon as that beautiful baby is in your arms!
SIX. Your Labor Nurse is your Advocate!
We are here for YOU and your safety (and the safety of your baby of course). Please please please tell us what you are wanting and what you are needing. We want to help! We will be giving you tons of education and discussing what the doctors plan might be but we also want to hear from you. I know I told you don’t have too much of a plan, but we DO definitely want to know how you generally would like things to go. We can be your voice to the doctor if you want to try something different, and we can also be the bad guy! Meaning we would be more than happy to kick out that annoying friend or family member that is driving you crazy or kindly show them the waiting room ;). Just let us know what we can do and likely we will do whatever we can to make it happen!
SEVEN. Discuss your requests or your birth plan (if you have one) with your OB doctor BEFORE you get to the delivery.
If you insist on having a written birth plan (I stand by my suggestion to just have a general idea of how you’d like things to go). Please discuss it with your doctor at your regular appointments before you get to the hospital. You would be surprised how many patients we see that have a very detailed birth plan but have never mentioned one bit of it to their doctor. Everything will go much smoother if you and your doctor are on the same page. Better yet, discuss it at one of your earlier appointments if you already know what you want. That way, if your OB does not support something that you feel very strongly about, it will still be early enough to switch doctors.
EIGHT. Stop worrying that you are going to poop!
Seriously. This is SO many people’s biggest fear. So let’s put it to rest. Some people poop when they push. Some people don’t poop when they push. It’s maybe a 50/50 chance that you will or you wont. No there really isn’t anything you can do to prevent it. Do NOT take an enema or a stool softener or anything drastic. Likely that will backfire on you… If you do poop, no one is going to announce it, and your labor nurse will stealthily remove it before you even realize it happened. So do your best not to worry, we got you girl!
NINE. Your epidural is not going to run out. And while we’re discussing epidural, the urinary catheter is no big deal!
So many people have a belief (either from their parents or some movie) that if they get their epidural too early, it is going to run out! Back in the day you used to get a “shot” of medicine in the epidural space and if that was still the case, yes it could run out. But thanks to modern day medicine, the Anesthesiologist will place a SUPER TINY catheter (small straw) into your low back in your epidural space, and that will be connected to a pump with a bag of “epidural medicine”. This pump will run continuously until after the baby is delivered. So once your doctor, your nurse, and yourself all agree it is a good time to get the epidural, go for it! (if you want one!) Because we will make sure to keep the pump going with the meds. Now it IS possible for you to start feeling some pain again after the epidural has been placed, just because as the baby moves down sometimes it might hit some different nerves. Just keep your nurse in the loop (remember, she is your advocate!). There are things we (and the anesthesiologist) can do to hopefully take care of that pain. Now when you have an epidural, yes, you likely will have a catheter in your bladder because you CANNOT get up and walk to the bathroom. Please do not try. You will fall, and not only will that hurt, it is a lot of paperwork ;). I’m kidding, but really, don’t get up. And don’t worry about the catheter! Your labor nurse should wait until you are comfortable with your epidural before they put in the catheter so you ideally should not feel any pain!
TEN. Stop comparing yourself to everyone else’s pregnancy, labor, delivery, and recovery.
Every single person is different. Every single labor is different. I will admit, at the end of pregnancy you will do just about anything to get that baby out of you and you want to know exactly what worked for every single person you know (at least that was true for me!) And that’s ok, feel free to ask around. But PLEASE remember that just because your sister delivered her third baby in four hours and 3 pushes, you likely will not do the same with your first baby. And just because your mom had to have 3 c-sections, does NOT mean that you will have to. Every baby is a different size, every pelvis is a different shape, and every body is going to work differently when it comes to getting that baby out. Do your best to remain open-minded and picture the end result: that sweet baby in your arms.
I hope that was helpful! If you have any specific questions feel free to leave a comment or shoot me an email! I love to hear from y’all. I have to end with this disclaimer: These tips are not going to apply to every single person and above all else, please listen to your physician. They know your specific medical history or complications and want the best and safest delivery possible (as do I!).
Happy Laboring Friends!