Becoming parents for the first time can be daunting. With so many unknowns, people are bound to have a lot of questions. The number one aspect of my job as a labour and delivery nurse is to inform and educate new parents. In my work I have seen some similar themes in the questions they have, so I thought it would be helpful to go over them in the blog to spread the knowledge.
What Does the Labour and Delivery Nurse Do Anyways?
Most patients are surprised by how much nurses do. Women in labour are usually in hospital for the first time in their lives and don’t realize how essential nurses are to their care until they get there. Labour and delivery floors often assign one nurse to each patient, so you will have her (or him) all to yourself! They are trained to (in no particular order):
educate you about all processes in the hospital and at home with your newborn.
support you during contractions, help you with position changes and massage, much like a doula.
monitor your contractions.
monitor the baby’s heart rate either continuously or as needed.
document EVERYTHING that happens. I mean everything, from when a doctor enters the room, to what the baby’s heart rate is every 15-30 minutes, to when the placenta delivers. And everything else in between.
check your cervix when needed.
clean you up and change your pad throughout.
put a catheter in your bladder if needed.
change linens if they get dirty.
stock the room.
help the anesthetist while you get an epidural.
coach you when you’re pushing.
call the doctor to catch the baby or as needed throughout your labour
help the doctors in the operating room if you need a C-section. And document everything that happens there.
support your family and answers questions.
clean up the labour room and help you recover after the baby is born.
help with breastfeeding.
and much, much more!
You might be thinking now, what doesn’t the labour and delivery nurse do?
How are Forceps used? What About a Vacuum?
They are both tools to assist with vaginal delivery of a baby. They are used if the mother has been pushing for a long time and is tired or if baby needs to come out quickly due to issues with the heart rate.
Forceps: They look like big tongs that come apart into two pieces. Tongs that are shaped to fit a baby’s head perfectly! One piece is placed on the side of the baby’s head between contractions. The other is placed on the other side of the head and they snap together on the end so they can be pulled on simultaneously. If the doctor decides to use forceps it doesn’t mean you can stop pushing! You still have to push really hard while the doctor pulls on the forceps. The baby is usually born within a couple of pushes.
Vacuum: This tool is used for the same reasons as forceps. The reason a vacuum would be chosen over forceps is if the baby is lower and doesn’t need a lot of help. Forceps are typically used if the head is higher. Basically, a vacuum is kind of like a suction cup that is placed on the baby’s head. Once you feel a contraction or urge to push the doctor will pull on the vacuum while you push really, really hard. Sometimes the vacuum pops off. That’s ok! The doctor will just reapply it and pull until your baby is born.
Where Does the Baby go After Delivery?
This is a question I get more often than you would think. Years ago, babies were taken to a nursery where they were kept and taken periodically to their mothers. Now, if baby is healthy he or she is kept with their parents in the hospital room.Where I work there are no nurseries. Most hospitals advocate skin-to-skin and breastfeeding and rooming in really helps facilitate that.
Help! I Want to Breastfeed.
Most mother/baby units train their nurses to help new mothers with breastfeeding. Don’t hesitate to ask for help. Even if this is your fifth baby. Some nurses might think you don’t need help, so never hesitate to speak up and advocate for yourself. Your community might offer help from lactation consultants or nurses, so ask around before you have your baby so that you’re aware of all the resources. Breastfeeding is natural, but it takes a lot of practice.
Surround yourself with friends and family members that breastfed their babies and are supportive of your choices. You might get conflicting advice. Use the advice that works for you and your baby and listen to you gut! If you think something isn’t working, it probably isn’t. The beginning of your breastfeeding journey is the most important part, so get the help you need while you’re still in hospital.
When Can We Go Home From the Hospital?
This is totally dependant on the policies of the hospital you deliver at. Typically, if you have a straightforward vaginal delivery you should be able to go home in 24 hours. That being said, you might be able to go home 6 hours after delivery. It all depends on your condition, how your baby is doing and what your health care provider is comfortable with. Usually, if you have a c-section they want you to stay for 48 hours. Again, it all depends on the hospitals rules. I’ve rarely seen anyone go home before 24 hours if they’ve had a c-section. Don’t forget, it’s major abdominal surgery!
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact me and I will cover it in my next Q&A section.