Tips From Labor And Delivery Nurses To Help You Better Prepare

Writer Margarette Burnette shares tips from labor and delivery nurses to help you better prepare for the birth of your baby.
Margarette Burnette

As an expectant mom, I went to all of my prenatal visits with a list of questions to ask my doctor about the labor and delivery process. When the big day came, however, I actually spent more time with the labor and delivery nurses than with my physician.

These nurses gave me pain management advice, communicated what was happening when an alarm sounded on my fetal monitor, let me know when they would call in my obstetrician, and even warned me about the chances of their work shift ending before I delivered my baby.

Because they were so helpful to me with each of my deliveries, I decided to ask several of them how other moms-to-be could have the best childbirth experience possible. Here are their top four tips.

Be a work-at-home mom
For full-term women, the initial jolt of labor pain is exciting and scary. Many are tempted to go to the hospital right after the first contraction. However, first-time moms will probably need to spend the first part of labor at home. Odds are there are several hours between that contraction and baby's arrival. Delivery can sometimes be as long as "two to three days away," says Margie Snider, RN, a labor and delivery nurse in the Atlanta, Georgia area.

"One contraction isn't labor", agrees Tia Dorsey, RN, a mother of two. "When patients called to see if they should come to the hospital, I always advised them to wait until contractions were 3-5 minutes apart," she says of her years working in labor and delivery. "It could take several hours until that happened."

Jill Leonard, a Norfolk, Virginia nursing student and mom of three, says many first-time mothers are in labor for 36 hours or more. "Healthcare professionals often advise laboring women to walk to help move labor along, and this is much more pleasant to do in a familiar surrounding than in a hospital."

That is not to say that you should not call your doctor at all. In fact, the nurses strongly emphasize that you should always call if you have any concerns.

Stay calm through alarms
Once admitted to the hospital, you may be hooked up to a fetal monitor and other medical devices. Let the nurses explain what these machines are for, and what might happen if an alarm goes off.

Sometimes it will cause a flurry of activity between nurses and doctors. It is understandable for laboring women to become anxious when this happens, and the anxiety level is usually heightened if additional family members are present.

However, even if the circumstance surrounding the alarm requires quick attention, it is probably not a grave situation.

The experts' advice is to relax and take the assurances from nurses as they explain what is happening and why.

In some situations, nurses "may need the family to leave the room," says Sherylene Patterson, a labor and delivery nurse. It will help if everyone knows upfront that this is a possibility, so they are not surprised if it happens.

Be flexible with expectations
Every delivery is different, so nurses warn new moms not to expect their childbirth stories to be exactly like those featured on television programs.

"The shows often edit out things that can happen to the baby, and how nurses respond," says Snider. If complications occur in their own situations, new moms are often disappointed that what happened to them was not what they were expecting. Or, they may feel let down if their childbirth experience is not the same as that of a family member or friend.

On the contrary, those who are flexible about what may happen in the birthing process are often the most satisfied.

Dorsey says the patients who seem to have the best experiences are those who are "excited, but have a relaxed attitude, and are teachable," meaning they trust their medical professionals and act on the experts' advice.

Regardless of what happens in the process, everyone should agree on the ultimate goal: having a healthy baby and a healthy mother.

Get educated
During each of her pregnancies, Sia Sutton, a mother of three, enrolled in childbirth preparation classes, asked her doctor questions during her prenatal visits and researched her delivery options several weeks before checking in to the hospital. As a result, she says that each childbirth experience was great.

Many nurses agree that moms-to-be should educate themselves by doing the things that Sutton did.

"Take classes instead of just watching television," cautions Snider. "Sometimes women don't ask their physicians questions because they are making wrong assumptions [about how easy their delivery may be]."

Instead, the experts encourage you to take preparation courses, and then ask your doctor about specific concerns.

When the time comes, you will then hopefully worry less about the birthing process and focus more on the miracle of delivering a wonderful new baby.


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