Nursing Birth

One Labor & Delivery Nurse’s View From the Inside

Top Ten DOs for Writing Your Birth Plan: Tips from an L&D Nurse, PART 2 July 23, 2009

If you haven’t already, please check out PART 1 of this post:  Writing Your Birth Plan: Tips from an L&D Nurse.  Also, at the end of this post check out a birth plan written and sent to me by one of my blog’s readers who is due any day now!

  

#1    DO keep your birth plan short, simple, and easy to understand (1-2 pages max).

 

“Keep [your birth plan] short.  If you need to spell out a long list of points, you may not be with the right caregiver. If most of the things you want aren’t things your caregiver is used to doing (in which case you don’t need to put them in a birth plan!), you are unlikely to get them. For maximum effectiveness, keep your birth plan to a single page.”

Writing a Birth Plan by findadoula.com

 

#2    DO keep the language of your birth plan assertive and clear.

 

“Remember to keep your language assertive – polite but clearly stating what you want. Use phrases like “I am planning” and “I would like” rather than “if it is ok” or “I would prefer.

 

Be specific.  Avoid words and phrases such as “not unless necessary” or “keep to a minimum.” What one person thinks is “necessary” is not what another does. What one person defines as the minimum is not what the next person does. Instead, use numbers or specific situations, for example: “I am happy to have 20 minutes of electronic monitoring and if all is well then intermittent monitoring every hour for five minutes after that”  or  “I am happy to have a vaginal examination on arrival in hospital and after that every four hours or on my request.”

Writing a Birth Plan by findadoula.com

 

 

“Be sure to be assertive, but not aggressive when discussing your options. Do not allow your caregiver to brush off your decisions or suggest that this is unimportant. At the same time, don’t assume your caregiver [or nurses] will be hostile or uninterested in hearing what you have to say.”

How to write a Birth Plan by birthingnaturally.net

 

#3    DO use your birth plan as an impetus for doing your own personal research about your preferences for childbirth. 

 

One great place to start is at MothersAdvocate.com who, in partnership with Lamaze International and Lamaze’s Six Steps to A Healthy Birth, have created a website that offers FREE, evidenced-based, educational video clips and print materials to educate and inform childbearing families on how to have a safe and healthy birth for both you and your baby.  These extremely well reserached and produced materials are a MUST READ for all expecting moms!!!

 

The introduction handout for these video clips and print-outs entitled Introduction: Birth–As Safe and Healthy As It Can Be reads:

 

“While no one can promise you what kind of birth experience you will have, common sense tells us and research confirms that there are two tried-and-true ways to make birth as safe and healthy as possible:

 

• First, make choices that support and assist your natural ability to give birth.

 

• Second, avoid practices that work against your body’s natural ability, unless there is a good medical reason for them.

 

Lamaze International, the leading childbirth education and advocacy organization, has used recommendations from the World Health Organization to develop the Six Lamaze Healthy Birth Practices that support and assist a woman’s ability to give birth. Years of research have proven that each of these practices increases safety for mothers and babies.

 

The Six Lamaze Healthy Birth Practices are:

 1. Let labor begin on its own.

 

2. Walk, move around, and change positions throughout labor.

 

3. Bring a loved one, friend, or doula for continuous support.

 

4. Avoid interventions that are not medically necessary.

 

5. Avoid giving birth on your back, and follow your body’s urges to push.

 

6. Keep your baby with you—it’s best for you, your baby, and breastfeeding.”

 

The topics of the print materials include: 

Choosing a Care Provider,

Changing Your Care Provider,

If You Have Been Induced,

Maintaining Freedom of Movement,

Positions for Labor,

Finding a Doula,

Creating a Support Team,

Tips for Labor Support People

and even a Birth Planning Worksheet!!

 

 

“We cannot know the day or week labor will begin, how long it will last, exactly how it will feel, how we will react, or the health and sizes of our babies.  What we can do, however, is educate ourselves about the vast array of possibilities and learn which are more likely to occur. We can decide what is ideal and what we will strive for, what are the means to creating the most conducive environment for such a birth, and which people can best help us to attain those birth arrangements. Finally, we can prepare our own bodies and hearts for the process.”

Eyes-Open Childbirth: Writing a Meaningful Plan for a Gentle Birth

by Amy Scott

 

#4    DO include your fears, concerns, and helpful things for the nurse to know.

 

If appropriate, a birth plan can also include a few sentences regarding things you just want the nurse to know about and are important enough to make sure that every shift is aware of.  For example, I once had a patient who wrote the following in her birth plan:

 

“My husband is a type I diabetic and at times suffers from episodes of hypoglycemia where he does not have any warning signs or symptoms.  So if my husband starts to act inappropriate or seems ‘out of it’ or ‘drunk’ please offer him some juice!!  I am afraid that if I am in the throws of labor that I will not notice and this is something that I am very concerned about!”

 

Although this information wasn’t necessarily birth related, as a nurse taking care of this family I found this information EXTREMELY helpful to have in the birth plan!!  By putting it in her birth plan, this mother felt more at ease knowing that she did not have to waste any time worrying about forgetting to tell each new nurse that took care of her.  Having this in her birth plan also served as a reminder for me to pass along this important information when I was giving report to the next shift. 

 

#5    DO review your birth plan with your birth attendant and ask him/her to sign off that he/she read and understands it.

 

“Add a line at the bottom of your birth plan for your doctor or midwife, and other caregivers, to sign your plan under the statement ‘I have read this plan and understand it.’  When caregivers sign your plan, they are only acknowledging to you—on the record- that they have read and understood it.  They do not have to sign and say: ‘I agree.’  No matter what you tell them, they are always responsible for offering you their best judgment and skills as different circumstances arise, and then together you and your caregivers can agree on your care.  This benefits you.  Your birth plan will help you take responsibility for your decisions and ask to be fully informed.”

Creating Your Birth Plan, page 219

By Marsden Wagner & Stephanie Gunning

 

#6    DO make your birth plan personal (don’t just copy paste) and DO make sure that you understand and can elaborate on everything in the birth plan if asked.

 

In my humble opinion (regarding birth plans), there is nothing more frustrating for a nurse (and nothing more detrimental to a nurse’s overall attitude and view of birth plans) than to have a patient just copy and paste a general, “all-purpose” birth plan off the internet, check the boxes that “sound good”, and pass it in to a nurse with her name typed in at the top.  Why?  Because when a nurse (like myself) sits down to review the birth plan with the mother and her labor companions in order to start a dialogue about how the nursing staff can assist in adhering to the birth plan, it will most certainly become obvious to the nurse that the patient has done little to no research on any of her choices making it almost impossible to help the patient follow her birth plan when the birth attendant comes in and wants to do things differently.

 

Let me give you a few examples:

 

Example 1:  One time I had a patient who had the following statement on her birth plan:  “Regarding an episiotomy, I am hoping to protect the perineum. I am practicing ahead of time by squatting, doing Kegel exercises, and perineal massage.”  Now don’t get me wrong, this statement is great and it is one that I personally believe in and try to promote.  So while reviewing the patient’s birth plan with her and her husband I enthusiastically said the following, “Oh, I see here you have been doing perineal massage and Kegel exercises and wish to avoid an episiotomy.  That is great!  How many weeks have you been doing perineal massage for?”  The patient looked blankly at me and said, “What?  Oh I don’t even know what that is!  My sister just told me that I shouldn’t get an episiotomy so I checked that box.” 

 

Ladies, it is really hard for a nurse to advocate for you if you don’t even understand what you are asking for!

 

Example 2:  Almost all the birth plans I have seen make some statement about pain relief and pain medications.  Again, I think that this is a great thing, especially if the mother was inspired to research all of her pain relief options (both pharmacological and non-pharmacological) and make an informed pain relief plan during the writing of her birth plan.  One time I had a patient who had the following statement in her birth plan, “Regarding pain management, I have studied and understand the types of pain medications available. I will ask for them if I need them.”  Again, I was very enthusiastic when I read this and said to the mother, “I see here that you have done some research on pain management.  Wonderful!  Have you taken any childbirth preparation classes or read any books?”  The mother responded, “What do you mean?”  I replied, “Well you know, like any classes or books by Lamaze, Bradley, Birthing From Within, Hypnobabies, etc.”  The mother responded, “No.”  I then said, “Oh, did you do any research on the internet or talk to anyone?”  To which she replied, “No, not really.  I mean, it’s my first time so I don’t know what to expect.  My best friend just said she hated her epidural so I don’t really want one of those.  Unless , of course, I really need it.  We’re just going to wing it.” 

 

Ummmm, huh?!?!  Now again, don’t get me wrong.  I feel that I am very supportive of mothers that are preparing for a natural, or physiological, childbirth and I often write about the risks and benefits of common obstetrical interventions, including pain medication and epidurals.  But ladies, your nurse can’t be the only one who is advocating for your natural childbirth.  YOU have to be on board too and YOU have to understand your reasons for not wanting pain medication or epidural.  Because if you don’t even know why you don’t want an epidural then the next person who walks into that room who feels differently, be it a nurse or your birth attendant, guess what’s going to happen?!  You’re probably going to agree to anything said nurse/birth attendant tells you you should get, because you don’t know any alternatives.

 

I am not trying to say that taking a certain childbirth preparation class or reading certain books is required for a positive and empowering birth experience.  But some type of research and preparation on the part of the mother and her labor companions/partner is EXTREMEMLY IMPORTANT!!   

 

Now here’s one more example to give you the full perspective.

 

Example 3:  One time I was taking care of a patient who had the following statement in her birth plan: “My husband and I have been preparing for and planning a natural childbirth.  I am very interested in using the Jacuzzi tub for pain relief in labor and have been reading about other drug-free ways to cope with pain.  I am not interested in pain medication or an epidural as I had both with my last baby and had a poor experience with both.   I respectfully request that they not be offered to me.  I have done research and feel that the risks outweigh the benefits.”  When I asked her about it we embarked on a really informative discussion about her last delivery, in which she had persistent numbness in her right leg for 2 months after the epidural as well as a debilitating spinal headache that took required two blood patches and made it difficult for her to nurse or care for her baby during her hospital stay.  She also told me that she did not like the way the IV narcotics made her feel, as she was “seeing things” and generally “very out of it.”  After our conversation I felt confident in advocating for her with her doctor (who often insisted his patients get epidurals) because I knew that if I said anything to the doctor that she would, in a sense, back me up and likewise I would back her up!! 

 

It is so hard when a patient has something in her birth plan like “I don’t want an epidural”, and hence I argue with the doctor about how the patient does not want an epidural, but then when he goes into the room to ask the patient himself, the patient says “Oh well, whatever you think is best doctor!”  It really just makes the nurse look like she is trying to “push her own agenda” when in reality the nurse was just trying to follow the patient’s birth plan!! 

 

One more thing…I don’t want anyone to feel like I am implying that a woman has to “prove” anything to me when I ask questions about her birth plan.  That is NOT the case.  I just know from personal experience how important it is for a woman to understand and agree with everything she herself puts in her birth plan!  Remember, mothers, labor companions, and nurses work best when they are all on the same page and work as a team to facilitate a positive and empowering birth experience!!

 

#7    DO look at examples of great birth plans online to get some ideas.

 

The following is a list of some good places to start. Remember, while these websites provide a wealth of ideas, they should not be simply copied and pasted!  The best and most effective birth plans are personal, NOT just a list of things with check marks next to them!!

 

a)      BirthingNaturally.net

b)      Sample Birth Plans from BirthingNaturally.net

c)      ChoicesinChildbirth.com

d)      American Pregnancy Association

e)      BabyCenter.com

f)      MothersAdvocate.com

 

#8    DO run through scenarios in your mind about how labor could unfold and actually talk these scenarios out with your labor companions and doula (or perhaps even your childbirth educator or birth attendant too!) 

 

Think about all the different ways labor could unfold and how you might react if labor was faster or slower than expected; harder or easier than expected. What would you need for comfort, support and information in each of these variations?  Thinking about “worst case scenario” doesn’t mean it’s going to happen.  But if it does, or if any variation does, it will make you more at ease to know that your team has already talked about it and knows your wishes. 

 

“If you knew that something would go wrong or would pose a difficult challenge during a portion of the labor and birth, what would your ideal strategy and scenario for handling that problem be?  How would you want your midwife or doctor to speak with you?  How would you like your spouse or another support system to help?  What alternatives would you like to try, and in what order?  Again, in your mind’s eye permit yourself to have the best.  What would help you relax and be able to continue labor under difficult conditions?”

Creating Your Birth Plan, page 219

By Marsden Wagner & Stephanie Gunning

 

 

#9        DO try to treat researching and birth plan writing as a fun and exciting experience, not a chore! 

 

Enjoy this time!  Don’t be afraid to be creative and fanaticize!  There are so many amazing thing that you can discover and learn about while doing research for your upcoming birth.  It is never too early to start so don’t put it off till the last minute!

 

And finally…

 

#10    DO remember to bring your birth plan to the hospital!! 

 

It won’t do much help to the nursing staff if you forget it at home on your coffee table!  I encounter this very often at work and I always feel so badly because I know that there is usually a lot of work put into writing a birth plan.  It might be best to make sure that you place a copy of your birth plan in the bag you have packed to take with you to the hospital.  I have even had a few mothers put an extra copy in their car’s glove box so that they wouldn’t forget it!

 

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SAMPLE BIRTH PLAN

 

This birth plan was sent to me by a reader of NursingBirth who goes by the name “ContortingMom”.  Contortingmom’s guess date is 7/17/09 and she is still “cooking” with her first baby 🙂  I really like her birth plan for a variety of reasons.  #1 She was inspired to add some stuff to her birth plan after reading a couple posts of mine (which I think is pretty cool 🙂 and #2 I think it is a perfect example of a personalized birth plan!!  No check boxes here!  Thanks again to ContortingMom for allowing me to post her birth preferences for other moms to read and learn from!!

 

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Birth Preferences:

I understand that labor and birth are unpredictable and ultimately want the health and safety of both the baby and I to take precedence. In all non-emergency situations, all proposed procedures are to be discussed (benefits and risks) so I can direct the decision making with informed consent.    

Your help with these preferences is very much appreciated.

 

Labor:

• I intend to have as natural a labor as possible – including freedom of movement, intermittent monitoring, a saline lock instead of an on-going IV, and clear liquids as tolerated.

• Due to my GBS+ status, I request only very limited vaginal exams and do not want an amniotomy.

• Please accept my request that pain medication not be offered to me. For many reasons – personal and medical, I’m striving for an unmedicated labor and delivery. If I eventually want drugs or an epidural, I’ll be the first to ask for it and understand that options change as labor progresses.

• If augmentation is necessary, I would like to try non-pharmacological methods before resorting to meds. However, if my OB and I agree that pitocin is required, I request that the it be administered following the low dose protocol and increased in intervals no closer than every 30 minutes, allowing my body an appropriate amount of time to adjust and react to each dose increase.

 

Birth:

• Please do not direct my pushing with counting or yelling. I will ask for help if needed.

• I strongly prefer a tear to an episiotomy and do not want a local anesthetic administered to the perineum.

• I plan to be as active during pushing & delivery as possible, including choosing productive positions. They will be probably anything except supine, lithotomy or “sitting squats” that put pressure on my tailbone. It’s been broken several times & currently inflamed. I also have restrictive pain from spinal injury & surgery, so please allow a position suited to my medical needs. I’ll make sure the OB has comfortable access.

• I would like to have the baby brought to my chest immediately for skin-to-skin contact & initial procedures – and to try nursing to see if it works to contract my uterus, delaying pitocin until we know.

 

If Cesarean Is Required:

• Please use double-layer sutures when repairing my uterus. If I have a second child, I hope to attempt a VBAC and understand this is a requirement for many doctors.

• As health permits, I would like to skin-to-skin contact with the baby, to stay together during repair and recovery, and to breastfeed during the initial recovery period.

• If my husband has to leave the operating room with the baby, I would like my doula to take his place.

 

Baby Care:

• We would like to spend as much time as possible with our baby after birth before being taken off for procedures and will be breastfeeding, so please refrain from giving bottles/pacifiers.

 

We Appreciate Your Support. Thank You!

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Writing Your Birth Plan: Tips from an L&D Nurse, PART 1 July 22, 2009

There have been many a time that I have written about the option of writing a birth plan, especially if one is planning a hospital birth.  And some of my readers have questioned me further, asking things like “I don’t know how to write a birth plan!  How do I begin?” or “There are so many websites about writing a birth plan, how do I know which one is best?”

 

Indeed when you type “birth plan” into Google you get 22,600,000 hits.  Yowzers!!  No wonder why so many expecting moms write to me and tell me how overwhelmed they are!!   And as we all know, not all websites are created equal as some are more helpful (and more accurate) than others. 

 

So since I suggest writing a birth plan so often in my posts and comments I feel that it is only proper that I write a post specifically about birth plans.  I will try to help you navigate through the sea of websites and direct you to the ones that I feel are the most accurate, truthful, easy to understand, and helpful.  I would like to make a disclaimer though:

 

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Disclaimer:  This post is riddled with my own opinion as both a consumer of health care and an L&D nurse.  I feel that this post has something to offer to the world of birth planning articles because in all of my research I found very few birth plan guides written by L&D nurses.  I found them written by mothers, doulas, midwives, and even doctors…but very few, if any, written by L&D nurses.   This is very interesting to me because if you are planning a hospital birth the first person in the hospital that you present your birth plan to is the nurse.  Sure, your doctor or midwife might (wait, scratch that….SHOULD) go over it in the office with you and if you are hiring a doula, then she will most likely review it with you as well.  However when push comes to shove it is the L&D nurse who is your go-between and except for the actual “catching” part, it is going to be the L&D nurse who manages your care throughout your labor.  While I agree that there are probably many L&D nurses who feel differently than I do about how a birth plan should be written (if at all), I can say with confidence that there are surely just as many who do agree with my take on it.

 

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Since the vast majority of women are planning a hospital birth and I am in fact a hospital based L&D nurse, this post is geared almost entirely towards women planning a hospital birth.  Although a birth plan isn’t a bad idea for a home or birth center birth, it is often less crucial.  Why?  As Leah Terhune, a certified nurse-midwife with Midwives Care, Inc. in Cincinnati is quoted in the article Eyes-Open Childbirth: Writing a Meaningful Plan for a Gentle Birth by Amy Scott says:

 

“A birth plan is not a must for out-of-hospital births because there is more self-education done by the mother, and most people come into the situation with the same philosophy: childbirth as a natural process.  In a really good relationship with a midwife, it should be understood by the end of the pregnancy what the expectations are.”

 

 

My goals for this post are the following:

 

1)      To assist you in writing the best birth plan you can by pointing you in the direction of the best resources out there, that I have found, on birth plan writing,

2)      To review the true purpose of a birth plan and to help you write a birth plan for the right reasons, and

3)      To help you navigate through a bureaucratic hospital system often perforated with outdated dogma and run by unofficial “policies” and help you and your labor companions facilitate a positive and empowering birth experience for your whole family!

 

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What Exactly is a Birth Plan?

 

 

According to Penny Simkin, a physical therapist, doula, and author of The Birth Partner: A Complete Guide to Childbirth for Dads, Doulas, and All Other Labor Companions:

 

 

“The mother’s Birth Plan tells her caregiver and nurses in writing what options are important to her, what her priorities are, any specific concerns she has, and how she would like to be cared for.  The plan should reflect the mother’s awareness that medical needs could require a shift from her choices, and it should include her preferences in case labor stalls or there are problems with her or her baby.”

 

 

I like this definition of “birth plan” because no where in that definition does it state that a birth plan is the mother’s actual plan for her birth.  That is, it acknowledges what those of us who work with mothers in labor know to be absolutely true:  LABOR CANNOT BE PLANNED OR CONTROLLED.  (And likewise, when someone, including the mother, her labor coaches, or her birth attendant tries to control labor, it only spells trouble.)  Writer Lela Davidson quotes professional childbirth educator and doula, Kim Palena James in her article Create a Better Birth Plan: How to Write One and What It Can and Cannot Do For You:

 

 

“Too many parents create birth plans with the expectation that it will be the actual script of their baby’s birth. There is no way! Nature scripts how your child is born into this world: short, long, hard, easy, early, late, etc… The health care providers you choose, and the facility they practice in, will script how you and your labor are treated. The variations are vast. I wish every expectant parent spent less time writing birth plans and more time selectively choosing health care providers that align with their philosophy on health care, match their health status and their needs for bedside manner.”

 

 

In their article Writing a Birth Plan, findadoula.com writes:

 

“It is not possible to use a birth plan to “make” your caregivers agree to things they are not comfortable doing. For instance, if you don’t want an episiotomy but your doctor usually cuts them for most women, it is unlikely a birth plan will make your doctor change his practice.”

 

 

[For more information on choosing a care provider please check out my post: Must Read Blog: “It’s Your Birth Right!!”]

 

Also doula Kim Palena James warns that a birth plan CANNOT:

 

1. Change your health care provider’s style of practice, personality or protocols.

2. Script the nature of your labor.

3. Insure you have a satisfying labor. 

 

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What Types of Birth Plans are UNHELPFUL to Mothers and Nurses?

 

 

Remember how I said that you cannot control labor?  Well you also cannot control your birth attendant or the medical system.  This is why author, certified nurse midwife, and childbirth educator Pam England, CNM, MA warns mothers about “The Birth Plan Trap.”  In her book Birthing From Within she writes:

 

“Writing birth plans is becoming a ritual of modern pregnancy.  This practice began with the positive intention of encouraging parents to take a more active role in birth.  Writing a birth plan motivates parents to learn about their hospital’s routines (usually with the intention of avoiding them).  A birth plan also can be a tool to open dialogue with doctors.  Telling a doctor what you want (and seeing his/her reactions) allows insight into the doctor’s philosophy of practice and willingness to share decision-making.

 

While gaining information is advantageous, the subtle implications of writing a birth plan are more complex than many people realize.  If you look below the surface, you’ll see that birth plans are like a hidden reef on which your efforts towards deeper birth preparations may run aground.

 

In my classes I discourage mothers and fathers from writing a birth plan.  I’ve changed my mind on this issue for several reasons.  I now believe that the need to write a birth plan invariably comes from:

 

  • Anxiety and/or mistrust of the people who will be attending you;
  • A natural fear of the unknown.  Some women attempt to ease that fear, and enhance their sense of control by writing a detailed script of how the birth should happen;
  • Lack of confidence in self and/or birth-partner’s ability to express and assert what is needed in the moment.  (Birth plans may be intended to substitute for face-to-face negotiations with authority figures.) 

 

In writing a birth plan, a woman focuses on fending off outside forces which she fears will shape her birth.  This effort distracts her from trusting herself, her body, and her spirituality.  Rather than planning her own hard work and surrender, her energy is diverted towards controlling the anticipated actions of others.”

(Birthing From Within, pages 96-97)

 

 

Indeed I have met and cared for couples as an L&D nurse where it seemed like they spent the majority of their time preparing for the birth by writing a birth plan that was intended to “ward off the enemy.”  Pam England calls this “fear-based externally directed preparation” (i.e. “I don’t want this,” “I don’t want that”).  And when I work with couples like this I, in turn, spend the majority of my shift trying to convince the couple (and sometimes their doula) that I am actually on their side.   And don’t get me wrong…I completely understand where their fear comes from (they probably experienced or heard about situations like in my “Don’t Let This Happen To You: Injustice in Maternity Care Series”)!  And there are plenty of stories of unsupportive nurses and crazy on-call doctors to where I don’t blame the couple for feeling like they have to gear up to fight me for everything they want.  But all that fear and worry does NOT facilitate an empowering and positive birth experience and sadly, it sometimes becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy; indeed a mother must almost let go of “control” in labor and surrender to the power of her body and of birth.   

 

So we’ve just learned that birth plans intended to control birth or ward off the enemy are not helpful to anyone.  However unlike Pam England, I don’t take the same drastic stance as she does by recommending that couples do not write a birth plan.  Why?  Because when a birth plan is written for the right reasons and contains the right information, it can really be a helpful tool that nurses can use to help facilitate the birth experience that you desire.  So what types of birth plans are helpful to childbearing families and nurses?  What should be included in a birth plan? and, How should a birth plan be written?  Well, I’m glad you asked!!

 

What Types of Birth Plans Are USEFUL and HELPFUL to Mothers and Staff?

 

In her article Lela Davidson writes:

 

“A birth plan is most useful when you use it to:

 

1. Discuss options and choices with your health care provider. Understanding how your care provider thinks and what her normal practices are will help eliminate confusion, debate, and disappointment during labor and birth. You’ll also increase the level of trust between yourself and your care provider: She’ll understand your priorities and you’ll understand her limitations and preferences.

 

2. Communicate your personality and unique physical, emotional, and environmental needs to your labor and delivery nurse. Let her know what works best for you: A quiet environment? Whispered voices? Do you have a fear of needles? Are you worried about too many people in your room? What do you want to do for pain relief? What helps you relax? What does your partner need? What are his or her fears? Do you like to be touched? What did you learn in your childbirth classes that you’d like to try?”

 

Up for Tommorow:  Top Ten DOs for Writing Your Birth Plan

 

The Deal with Delayed Cord Cutting or “Hey! Doctor! Leave that Cord Alone!” May 17, 2009

Recently I have received a few emails/comments asking me about the pros/cons of delayed cord cutting.  Delayed cord clamping/cutting is the process of waiting until the umbilical cord stops pulsating (approximately 5 minutes) and/or waiting until the placenta is delivered (approximately 30 minutes) before the cord is cut after the baby is born.  In today’s hospitals, obstetricians typically wait no longer than 30 seconds after the shoulders are delivered before they clamp the cord.  Why such a short time?  Author Tina Cassidy in her book Birth: The Surprising History of How We Are Born sheds some light on the subject:

 

“Throughout history, the immediate postpartum period has been as much a victim of fashion and misconception as has labor and birth.  And standard practice still varies among countries, hospitals, doctors, and midwives. 

 

The first act that usually occurs after the slippery baby emerges is the cutting of the umbilical cord.  …The act also forces the newborn to breathe air through its lungs for the first time.  Perhaps because of the symbolism of that moment, cord cutting has been a magnet for drama, ceremony, and superstition.

 

In most hospitals today, cutting the cord is such an uneventful routine that it can pass unnoticed by the overwhelmed mother.  Doctors generally wait about thirty seconds a time period long enough, they believe, for the baby to receive all the blood it needs from the placenta.  …They then apply two clamps, break out the scissors, and often ask the father if he wants to cut between the ligatures.  Doing all of this quickly also allows for the baby to be suctioned, weighed, and swaddled, before it gets cold.  

 

Some childbirth experts argue that, rather than being guided by a clock, it’s best to wait until the cord stops pulsing before cutting, allowing the baby to receive all the blood it was meant to receive from the placenta.  They say it helps the mother as well, because the placenta shrinks as it pumps out extra blood, making it easier to deliver.”

 

Penny Simkin, author of the book The Birth Partner, also writes about this subject:

 

“The cord is often cut immediately, but a recent scientific analysis has found benefit to waiting for at least two minutes or until it stops pulsating—in five minutes or so.  Less likelihood of anemia for as much as six months exists in babies whose cords are cut late.  Until the cord is clamped or stops pulsating, blood passes back and forth between the baby and the placenta.  It goes from placenta to baby when ever the uterus contracts, squeezing blood from the placenta through the umbilical cord to the baby.  Between these contractions, with each beat of the baby’s heart, blood is pumped from the baby through the umbilical cord and back to the placenta.  This transfer stops when the cord is clamped or stops pulsating, which occurs when the blood vessels close down.  The best way to make sure that the baby has the right amount may be to place the baby on the mother’s belly and wait for the cord to stop pulsating.  Exceptions to this are when the baby needs immediate medical attention, when the cord is tightly wrapped around the baby’s neck, preventing delivery, and when you have decided on cord blood removal and storage.”

 

So what can we take from these quotes?  I believe we can take the following two things:

 

#1  Immediate cord cutting is very convenient for today’s hospital staff and birth attendants.  It allows for the birth attendant to begin inspection of the mother’s perineum and stitching up of any episiotomy or tear that may have occurred (or was cut) during delivery.  It also provides an opportunity to use a sponge stick to provide traction on the placenta (a.k.a. slight tugging) to “assist” the placenta in detaching (Note: The majority of obstetricians do this as it is part of “active management of the third stage” which is predominately and widely taught in medical schools and residency programs across the U.S.)  When the cord is cut soon after delivery, it also allows for the nurses/pediatrician to take the baby away from the mother (either in or outside of the room) and weigh it, tag it, footprint it, give it medications like vitamin K shot and erythromycin eye ointment, and swaddle it. (Note: If you think that sounds assembly line-ish, your right!  These practices are based on a desire for modern maternity hospital wards to increase their efficiency!)  Typically mothers are told “Oh this won’t take very long!  You’ll have the next 18 years to spend with your baby!  It’s too hard to hold the baby and get stitched up anyways!  We’ll give her right back…promise.”  I would like to add that it is my personal philosophy that any practice that is done solely or mainly for obstetrical convenience and not for the safety or wellbeing of the mother or baby is a practice that should be re-thought or abandoned!

 

#2  The placenta does not stop working when the baby is born.  In addition, blood continues to flow from the baby to the placenta and back again making the claim that the baby will get “too much blood” a physiological fallacy especially if the baby is placed on the mother’s abdomen skin-to-skin above the level of the placenta which assures that blood will continue to flow, but not to excess.  (Unless, of course, the cord is milked, and by that I mean the practitioner puts the cord between his thumb and forefinger and pushes all the blood in the cord into the baby and then clamps it, a practice which is both outdated and harmful in the fact that it will most surely lead to neonatal jaundice.  This old-school practice of “milking” the cord is probably where delayed cord clamping inaccurately got its bad reputation!) 

 

In my quest for more knowledge on this topic I stumbled upon a YouTube video entitled Better Birth VA – We Can Be Much Kinder” produced by L. Janel Martin. 

 

 

This video was created in part for the Birth Matters Virginia Video ContestIt is a fascinating video that interviews a variety of midwives/obstetricians including:

 

 

This list of birth attendants, both obstetricians and midwives, are practitioners who are in support of delayed cord cutting.  More research into their backgrounds and practice revealed to me that they all believe in, work within, and support a midwifery model of maternity care, a woman-centered model that has been proven to reduce the incidence of birth injury, trauma, and cesarean section and promote empowering, positive birth experiences for childbearing families. 

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Let’s take a moment to learn a little bit more about the research that SUPPORTS delayed cord clamping/cutting:

 

  • Delayed Umbilical Cord Clamping Boosts Iron In Infants (2006): A report of a study conducted by UC Davis nutrition professor Kathryn Dewey that revealed a two-minute delay in cord clamping at birth significantly increases a child’s iron status at 6 months of age.  This study documented for the first time that the beneficial effects of delayed cord clamping last beyond the age of 3 months.

 

  • Early versus delayed umbilical cord clamping in preterm infants (2004): A Cochrane review (considered the “gold standard” of research and evidenced based practice) of studies on babies born prematurely which revealed that delaying cord clamping for greater than 30 to 120 seconds, rather than early clamping as is the current obstetrical practice, seems to be associated with less need for transfusion, less intraventricular haemorrhage, and helped the babies adjust to their new surroundings better.

 

  • Effect of timing of umbilical cord clamping of term infants on maternal and neonatal outcomes (2008): A Cochrane review that showed no significant difference in postpartum hemorrhage rates when early and late cord clamping were compared. The review also reported growing evidence that delayed cord clamping confers improved iron status in infants up to six months after birth, with a possible additional risk of jaundice that requires phototherapy.  (It is important to note however that the act of placing the baby on the mother’s abdomen skin-to-skin above the level of the placenta assures that blood will continue to flow, but not to excess.)

 

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So let’s break it down shall we?!

 

The PROS of Delayed Cord Clamping/Cutting

(This list was written by Marie Berwald, a certified HypnoBirthing practitioner and Yoga instructor from Canada, for a post entitled “Late vs Early Clamping of the Umbilical Cord in Newborn Babies” on her blog Birth Bliss.  Marie supports each one of these points with research so please check her blog out!)

 

1) The blood in the placenta rightfully belongs to the baby, and babies not receiving this blood have the deal with the equivalent of a major blood loss or hemorrhage at birth.  It is estimated that early clamping deprives the baby of 54 to 160 ml of blood, which represents up to half of a baby’s total blood volume at birth.

 

2) There is a significant amount of iron in the cord blood which the baby needs for optimal health and for the prevention of anemia.

 

3) Babies benefit from the increased oxygen available to them from the cord-blood when the taking these first few breathes.  The earlier the cord is clamped, the more likely the incidents of respiratory distress.

 

4) The blood that babies receives through the cord after birth acts as a source of nourishment that protects infants against the breakdown of body protein.

 

5) As an added bonus, delayed cord clamping keeps babies in their mother’s arms, the ideal place to regulate their temperature and initiate bonding and breastfeeding.

 

The CONS of Delayed Cord Clamping/Cutting

 

1)     May increase the baby’s risk for jaundice, a condition that many newborns develop related to the baby’s immature liver that cannot process bilirubin, a yellow byproduct of the breakdown of old red blood cells.

 

It seemed to me that the PROS of delayed cord clamping outweigh the CONS however I feel that it is important to explore the subject of newborn jaundice more…that is, Is it something that parents should be worried about?  Is it serious enough to trump all of the research supported benefits of delayed cord clamping? 

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The answer to my question came from one of the obstetricians featured in the YouTube video featured above, Dr. Sarah J. Buckley.  In an article entitled, Leaving well alone: A natural approach to the third stage of labour  Dr. Buckley writes,

 

“Early clamping has been widely adopted in Western obstetrics as part of the package known as active management of the third stage. This comprises the use of an oxytocic agent- a drug that, like oxytocin, causes the uterus to contract strongly- given usually by injection into the mothers thigh as the baby is born, as well as early cord clamping, and ‘controlled cord traction’- that is, pulling on the cord to deliver the placenta as quickly as possible.

 

While the aim of active management is to reduce the risk of haemorrhage for the mother, ‘its widespread acceptance was not preceded by studies evaluating the effects of depriving neonates [newborn babies] of a significant volume of blood.’

 

Some studies have shown an increased risk of polycythemia (more red blood cells in the blood) and jaundice when the cord is clamped later. Polycythemia may be beneficial, in that more red cells means more oxygen being delivered to the tissues. The risk that polycythemia will cause the blood to become too thick (hyperviscosity syndrome), which is often used as an argument against delayed cord clamping, seems to be negligible in healthy babies.

 

Jaundice is almost certain when a baby gets his or her full quota of blood, and is caused by the breakdown of the normal excess of blood to produce bilirubin, the pigment that causes the yellow appearance of a jaundiced baby. There is, however, no evidence of adverse effects from this mild jaundice.  In fact, jaundice, which is present in almost all human infants to some extent, and which is often prolonged by breastfeeding, may be beneficial because of its powerful anti-oxidant properties.

 

Early cord clamping carries the further disadvantage of depriving the baby of the oxygen-rich placental blood that Mother Nature provides to tide the baby over until breathing is well established. In situations of extreme distress- for example, if the baby takes several minutes to breathe-this reservoir of oxygenated blood can be life saving, but, ironically, standard practice is to cut the cord immediately if resuscitation is needed.”

 

I encourage you to read the full text of Dr. Buckley’s article on her website as she not only talks more about the benefits of delayed cord clamping, but she also supports all of her arguments with research.

 

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Are you interested in delaying cord clamping during the birth of your baby?  If you are, know that the research supports you!  If your birth attendant states that she/he does not usually practice delayed cord clamping/cutting but doesn’t automatically shoot the idea down, as her/him if she would be willing to learn more about it.  On the other hand be weary of any birth attendant that discourages this practice, tries to talk you out of it, or outright refuses to participate.  This could be a red flag that she/he will not be wiling to support any other desires in your birth plan.  A regular visitor to my blog recently wrote me this email:

 

Dear NursingBirth,

 

I belong to an online birth club and a fellow mom wrote this post the other day:

 

“I met with my obstetrician yesterday for my 32 week appointment and brought my birth plan with me.  She looked over it and proceeded to tell me all these issues with it…  I want to have a natural/med-free childbirth and mentioned if the labor wasn’t progressing I would like to try nipple stimulation or breaking my water first. She told me no, this it is bad for the baby, and that pitocin is less bad for the baby.  I want to let the baby’s cord finish pulsating before cutting it… she said absolutely not, because it increases the risk for jaundice. Then at the end of the appointment she walked out and I over heard her talking to a nurse about all the issues with my birth plan and how I must have just copied and pasted stuff from the internet.  Maybe I’m being overly sensitive, but it just seemed a little harsh and awkward.  What would you guys do?”

 

Everyone has been writing back to her that she needs to consider finding another doctor but she seems reluctant because she is already 32 weeks along and has had this doctor for her entire pregnancy.  What do you think?

 

Sincerely, 

Concerned Friend

 

My thoughts….this is a RED FLAG to walk right out of that doctor’s office and never look back.  This doctor CLEARLY does NOT practice evidenced based medicine.  Is switching birth attendants during the last few weeks of pregnancy a hassle and nuisance that a mother should not have to go through on top of all the other stresses she is probably experiencing?….ABSOLUTELY!  But is it absolutely imperative that she still switch practices even though it sucks big time….YOU BET IT IS!  I hope that any mother that finds herself in a similar situation truly understands the risk of staying with a birth attendant that does not support her birth plan just because she don’t want to a) hurt anyone’s feelings, b) think she can still have the birth you want without her/his support, c) go through the hassle of finding a new attendant (trust me, I know it is a huge hassle). 

 

The bottom line for me is this:

 

IT’S YOUR BIRTH!!  YOU ARE ONLY GOING TO BE GIVING BIRTH TO THAT CHILD/CHILDREN ONCE IN YOUR WHOLE LIFE!!  YOU, NOT YOUR BIRTH ATTENDANT, ARE THE PERSON THAT IS GOING TO HAVE TO LIVE WITH THE CONSEQUENCES OF A BIRTH THAT IS CONTROLLED BY SOMEONE ELSE!!  YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO HAVE THE POSTIVE, EMPOWERING, SAFE, AND HEALTHY BIRTH THAT YOU DESIRE!!

 

For help writing a birth plan please check out:

 

 

My Philosophy: Birth, Breastfeeding, and Advocacy April 25, 2009

 

I am honored, humbled, and excited to report that just a few days ago my blog had over 1,500 hits in just one day.  I was floored when I saw the number and almost choked on my Cheerios J!  When I started this blog in February I was feeling lost, frustrated, burnt out, defeated, and disempowered regarding my role in the current maternity care system in America.  The day I wrote my very first post, NursingBirth is BORN!, was only one week after I almost up and quit my job after I had witnessed a very traumatic assault and battery against a woman I was caring for as her obstetrician performed a pudendal block against her will as she and her husband were screaming for him to stop. 

 

(Side Note: This is one situation that I still have not been able to bring myself to write about.  The fact is that assault & battery on patients in health care happen DOES happen and it was the first time I had ever witnessed such an event.  I cried for days, ran the story over and over and over again in my head, wondering what I could have done differently, wishing I had the courage to throw myself over her to physically prevent him from violating her, instead of just saying “Stop!”.  I am getting pretty choked up even thinking about it so for now, I will have to continue to process that event and hopefully one day, I will be able to write about it.)

 

My intention for this blog was simple…if I could reach one mother, just one, who might stumble upon my blog and be inspired to learn more about labor, childbirth, and birth options, to realize that she has options and rights regarding her experiences and her body, I would then feel triumphant.  I had convinced myself that for months or maybe even years the readers of my blog would probably only be my husband and sister-in-law J.  I conceded to using this blog as just catharsis and a way to process my experiences.  What I never imagined was that more than just a few people would ever read, never mind enjoy and keep reading, this blog!

 

So MANY THANKS are owed to all of my readers, who have turned out to not only be moms, but grandmothers, nurses, doctors, doulas, childbirth educators, midwives, and other people in the birth advocacy community.  THANK YOU, for reading!  Thank you to those who find themselves sharing many of my interests and beliefs!!  I love networking with all of you and learning more every day about how to better serve childbearing families.  And thank you to those of you who not only disagree with me but tell me about it too!!  You keep me thinking and on my toes.  Great things come out of great discussions and a discussion isn’t quite as interesting if everyone has the same opinion. 

 

THANK YOU!  THANK YOU!  THANK YOU!

 

With all of that being said I feel that it is time to share a bit more about my personal philosophy regarding birth, breastfeeding, and advocacy.  Of course my opinions do shine through in my writing (after all, it is my blog J) but with all of this “success” (haha, take that with a grain of salt please J) I have found that many people are beginning to label me with thoughts, feelings, and beliefs that I do not hold.  Contrary to what some readers have implied, my goal in writing this blog was not to push my own agenda or to bully women into believing everything I do.  (For example, one mom linked to a lighthearted post on my blog entitled Top Ten Things Women Say/Do During Labor on a popular baby website and wrote something to the effect of “Beware of the rest of her posts because she is pretty hippy-crunchy.”  Another person commented that my blog was something to avoid because I was a “crunchier than thou/more natural than thou natural birth Nazi.”)  Please note that I am NOT writing about these comments to start a flame war, nor did they hurt my feelings (I work in L&D after all, I have a pretty tough skin!  Haha!)

 

However, I did feel compelled to outline what my personal philosophy is so my intentions are clearer in future posts and since it is my blog that is exactly what I am going to do!  I feel that it is better for me to “fill in the holes” rather than have readers “guess” at where I am coming from.  That being said, I DO NOT expect everyone in the world to share the same philosophy.  The beliefs I have written below are meant to be provocative, that is, I am not trying to hide or sugar coat anything to make it have universal appeal.  Also, although I strongly believe in these statements, I can also understand the other side of the story.  For example, although I am a supporter and advocate of spontaneous, un-medicated labor and birth as well as VBACs, I do not condemn any woman for getting an epidural, taking pain medication, or scheduling a repeat cesarean.  I know there are some people out there that would, but I do not feel that way.  In reality more so than anything else, it’s not the epidural, pain medication, or repeat cesarean that bothers me; instead, it’s the women who request these things but have never even researched their safety or risks.  Like author Henci Goer, one of my goals in writing this blog is to never hear another women ever say, “But I didn’t know that was an option” or “I never would have agreed if I had known that could happen.”  You wouldn’t believe me if I told you how often I actually hear women speak these exact words because I hear it ALL THE TIME.  Also, I would like to point out that this is not a completely exhaustive list.  Regardless, here it is!!

 

(Note: Many of these statements are taken or adapted from the following resources)

v     Childbirth Connection’s Rights of Childbearing Women

v     BirthNetwork National’s Mission & Philosophy

v     Coalition for Improving Maternity Services’ Mother-Friendly Childbirth Initiative (MFCI)

 

My Personal and Professional Birth, Breastfeeding, and Advocacy Philosophy

 

Pregnancy, Birth, & Breastfeeding

1)     I believe that pregnancy and birth are normal, healthy processes and should not be treated as illness or disease.

2)     I believe women and babies have the inherent wisdom necessary for birth.

3)     I believe that pregnancy, birth, and the postpartum period are milestone events in the continuum of life that profoundly affect women, babies, fathers, and families, and have important and long-lasting effects on society.

4)     I believe that breastfeeding provides the optimum nourishment for newborns and infants which does NOT mean that I am not grateful for the advancements in artificial milk for those mothers and infants who truly require it.

5)     I believe that every woman has the right to virtually uninterrupted contact with her newborn from the moment of birth, as long as she and her baby are healthy and do not need care that requires separation.

6)     I believe that for the majority of women, VBAC (or vaginal birth after cesarean) is a safe option that should be available to all women in all birth settings who safely qualify.

 

The Obstetric vs. Midwifery Model of Care

7)     I believe that uncomplicated, healthy pregnancies far outnumber pregnancies that have complications and hence, the technology and techniques utilized to maintain the safety of mother and baby in high risk pregnancies should not be automatically or routinely applied to low risk pregnancies.

8.)     I believe that the current maternity and newborn practices in the United States that contribute to high costs and inferior outcomes include the inappropriate application of technology and routine procedures that are not based on scientific evidence.

9)     I believe that although you cannot make blanket generalizations about the model of care that a birth attendant follows just by their credentials, typically speaking I believe OBGYNs tend to follow an obstetrics model of care while midwives tend to follow a midwifery model of care based on the very nature of their education.  After all, obstetricians are surgical specialists trained in the pathology of pregnancy and women’s reproductive organs.

10) I believe that per the very nature, philosophy, and experiences of medical education/obstetrical residency and midwifery education/apprenticeship, midwives should be the only health care providers attending normal, healthy, uncomplicated labors & births while obstetricians should be called to consult or transfer care to if and only if a problem or complication out of the scope of midwifery practice arises.

11) I believe that women need access to professional midwives whose educational and credentialing process provides them with expertise in out-of-hospital birth as well as hospital-based and clinical care that extends beyond the childbearing cycle.

12) I believe that midwives can obtain quality education and experience in a variety of ways and programs, including certified nurse midwifery and direct-entry midwifery. 

13) I believe that integrity of the mother-child relationship as well as the safety of our mothers and babies is compromised by the pervasive over-medicalized, obstetrics model of maternity care in this country.

 

Interventions & Natural Birth

14) I believe that research supports the reality that both a mother’s body as well as her baby will initiate the beginning of labor when the baby is ready to be born and that women should not have their labor induced for any elective reason unless the health of the woman or baby is found to be in immediate danger if the pregnancy is allowed to continue. 

15) I believe that empowering and safe births can and do take place in a variety of settings including birth centers, hospitals, and homes.

16) I believe that every woman should have the opportunity to give birth as she wishes in an environment in which she feels nurtured and secure and her emotional well-being, privacy, and personal preferences are respected, whether that be in a hospital, birthing center, or at home.

17) I believe the research supports that a minimal to no intervention, medication free, spontaneous vaginal delivery is the safest birthing option for the vast majority of both mothers and babies.

18) I believe that the obstetrical model of maternity care plus a pervasive American cultural phenomenon that teaches women to fear childbirth, doubt their innate ability and power to give birth, and be ashamed of their bodies and their sexuality is responsible for many women opting relinquish all control over their birth experiences to others and consent to unnecessary interventions that seem to provide a way to escape.

19) I believe that every woman has the right to create her own birth plan and that her birth attendants and labor companions have the responsibility to assist her in making it a reality as best and safely as they can.  I also understand that for some women, their birth plan does not include a medication or intervention free labor and childbirth and I support this as long as the women has been provided with informed consent, including all the risks and benefits of her requests.

 

Autonomy & Empowerment

20) I believe women are entitled to complete, accurate, and up-to-date information that is supported by evidenced based research on their full range of options, including all procedures, drugs, and tests suggested for use during for pregnancy, birth, post-partum and breastfeeding.

21) I believe that women have a right to make health care decisions for themselves and their babies and that this right includes informed consent as well as informed refusal.

22) I believe that interventions (i.e. many standard medical tests, procedures, technologies, and drugs including narcotic medications for pain relief in labor, epidurals, labor inductions, primary & repeat cesarean sections) should not be applied routinely during pregnancy, birth, or the postpartum period and in my opinion should be avoided in the absence of specific indications and true necessity for their use.

23) I believe that said interventions have life saving potential and are necessary in certain circumstances (which I am entirely grateful for) but are often abused and misused.

24) I believe that maternity care practice should not be based on the needs of the caregiver or provider, but solely on the needs of the mother and child.

25) I believe that every woman has the right to health care before, during and after pregnancy and childbirth.

26) I can admit that (probably related to my educational background, experiences, and values) I am not entirely comfortable with the “free-birth” or “unassisted childbirth” movement but I can also admit that I know little to nothing about the movement and I am open-minded to learning more.

27) I believe that every woman has the right to receive continuous social, emotional and physical support during labor and birth from a caregiver who has been trained in labor support and I believe that the current obstetrical education in this country does not train physicians to provide labor support.

28) I believe that every women has the right to have how ever many supportive labor companions and birth attendants of her choice (as she deems necessary) attend her labor and birth, has the right to change her mind at any time, and has the right to decline the care or presence of any unnecessary personnel during her labor and birth.

 

In closing, I am NOT anti-obstetrician, anti-hospital, anti-intervention, anti-induction, anti-epidural, anti-pain medication, or anti-cesarean.  Quite the contrary I am PRO the appropriate use of such interventions when they are necessary to support the health and safety of the mother-baby unit and facilitate a safe and empowering (hopefully vaginal) birth.  I have found my passion in assisting women and families during the intrapartum period and my number one goal in my job is to support, facilitate, and encourage a natural-as-possible, empowering, and safe birth experience, however that may be, for all those involved.

 

Thanks for reading.

 

 

Stand And Deliver! Research Shows Upright Labor Positions Reduce Pain, Speed Birth April 15, 2009

As if we all didn’t already know this!  🙂

 

Medical News Today posted a story on a new study published in the latest issue of The Cochrane Library which found that women who walk, sit, kneel or otherwise avoid lying in bed during early labor can shorten the first stage of labor by about an hour and are also 17 percent less likely to seek pain relief through epidural analgesia.  On the whole, the review examined 21 studies totaling 3,706 births.  After reviewing the research the authors’ concluded, “Women should be encouraged to take up whatever position they find most comfortable in the first stage of labour.”

 

The Cochrane Collaboration is an international organization that evaluates medical research by performing systematic reviews and drawing evidence-based conclusions about medical practice after considering both the content and quality of existing medical studies on a particular topic.

 

I would probably bet money on the fact that every savvy birth junkie or mom reading this blog already knows this J.  I just love when the research supports what midwives and mothers have instinctually known for centuries!!

 

So get up and move girl!!  Beware of any intervention that restricts your movement and, YES, this includes unnecessary and elective inductions.  This is the #1 reason women end up with all the needless and risky interventions in the first place.  The LESS unnecessary interventions the MORE you will be able to move!

 

Don’t Let This Happen To You #25 PART 2 of 2: Sarah & John’s Unnecessary Induction April 8, 2009

Please see, Don’t Let This Happen To You #25 PART 1

 

After our conversation about her birth plan and induction, I focused my attention on providing Sarah & John with the support they needed to have a successful, empowering, and fulfilling labor and vaginal birth, despite the less than optimal circumstances. 

 

The first thing I did for Sarah was get her out of that bed!  At that time all of the portable telemetry monitors were in use by other patients (unfortunately we only have a few on the floor) so I couldn’t let her walk the halls.  But I explained that I could let her go as far as the cords would take her; basically she could sit in a rocking chair, stand at the bedside, and take “unlimited” trips to the bathroom for as long as she wanted (my own personal way of getting around the continuous monitoring.)  Sarah said she was most comfortable in the rocking chair since her back was bothering her in bed. (I bet!)  She reported at that time that the contractions mostly felt like “bad menstrual cramps.”  The next few hours I was in and out of the room since Sarah and John had things pretty much under control and I do believe that couples deserve privacy.  They were really cute together I have to admit.  While Sarah was rocking John was reading her poetry out of one of her favorite books.  It turned out to be the perfect amount of distraction for Sarah.  And Sarah did say to me that being in the rocking chair made her feel like she was actually “doing” something, as opposed to “just sitting in bed.”  Isn’t it interesting how just getting a mother out of bed can change her perspective for the better!

 

Over the next few hours I titrated the pitocin up or down depending on how frequent her contractions were coming, how Sarah told me she was feeling, and how strong the contractions felt when I palpated them.  Since we had talked extensively about her birth plan, I let Sarah know that Dr. F was planning on coming in around 2:00pm to check on her and break her water and that she had the right to refuse that procedure.  I explained to her that it was not an unreasonable request to ask him to wait.  I also told her that despite what Dr. F would probably say, it was NOT going to “slow down her labor” if she wanted to wait until she was more active, maybe even 7 or 8 centimeters, or just wait until her water broke on its own.   I also told her that I would support her decision and “stick up for her” with Dr. F, but that she was the one that had to tell him what she wanted first.  If not, it just makes the nurse look “pushy” and the doctor is less likely to abide.  

 

At 1:30pm, right on schedule, Dr. F came into the room.  After some quick small talk he asked Sarah to get into the bed so that he could perform a vaginal exam and break her water. 

 

Sarah: “Umm, I was hoping we could wait a little bit longer to do that, until I am in more active labor.”

 

Dr. F: “Well, if I break your water it is really going to rev things up and put you into active labor.”

 

(Side note:  Dr. F is just plain wrong.  He, like so many mislead obstetricians, was utilizing his own anecdotal evidence instead of scientific research when he made his claim that amniotomy would “rev up” her labor.  A 2009 landmark study published by the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews concluded (after reviewing 14 studies involving 4893 women),“There was no evidence of any statistical difference in length of first stage of labour [between the amniotomy alone vs. intention to preserve the membranes group].  Amniotomy was associated with an increased risk of delivery by caesarean section.  On the basis of the findings of this review, we cannot recommend that amniotomy should be introduced routinely as part of standard labour management and care.”  This study hangs in the doctor’s lounge at my hospital and I have actually shown it to quite a few physicians who believe in early and routine amniotomy.  And they ignore it and do what they want anyways.  It’s infuriating!  It’s like they only care about research that supports what they already do and if it goes against their practice, they pretend it doesn’t exist!)

 

Sarah: “I’d really rather wait.”

 

Dr. F: (visibly frustrated) “Well I at least have to check you!”

 

(Oh lord, I love the “have to”!)  Dr. F’s exam revealed that Sarah was 4 centimeters!  Yay!

 

After helping Sarah to the bathroom and back to her rocking chair, I stepped out the catch Dr. F at the desk.  “Thanks for holding off on the amniotomy, it was really important to her birth plan,” I said, trying to “smooth things over” and (gently) remind him that the patient was in charge!  “Yeah well I’ll be back around 4:00pm to check her again and if she hasn’t made any progress I am going to break her water,” he said, grudgingly. 

 

He started to walk towards the elevator but then turned around to me and said:

 

Dr. F: “You have the pit at 20 right?”

 

(Note: The way pitocin is administered for induction in my hospital (and many others) is that you start the pitocin at 2mu/min (or 6mL/hr) and increase by 2mu/min every 15-30 min (or more) to a maximum of 20mu/min (or 60mL/hr) until you obtain an adequate contraction pattern (or, 3-5 contractions in 10 minutes).  So what does that mean?  That means that you do NOT just crank the pitocin until you get to “max pit,” rather you TITRATE it until you get 3-5 contractions in 10 minutes that are palpable and are causing cervical change.  Bottom line is everyone is different.  I personally could take a whole box of Benadryl and not so much as yawn while my husband can take one tablet and all but hallucinate!  It is no different for pitocin.  Some people are extra sensitive and only need a little bit, and others tolerate “max pit” very well.  I seem to have this same “fight” with physicians all the time at work.  They insist you “keep cranking the pit” when all you are going to do is hyperstimulate the uterus and cause the baby to go into distress.  But I digress….)

 

Me: “No, I have her at 10mu/min.”

 

Dr. F: (sarcastically)  “What!?  What are you waiting for?! 

 

Me: (said while biting my lip so I didn’t say something I would regret)  “She is contracting every 2-3 min and they are palpating moderate to strong.  She has to breathe through them.  And the baby is looking good on the monitor.  I want to keep it that way!”

 

Dr. F:  “But she’s not going anywhere!  You have to keep going up if you want her to progress.”

 

Me: “But she has changed to 4 centimeters…”

 

Dr. F:  “I was being generous!”

 

Me: “So you lied…”

 

Dr. F:  (annoyed) “Listen, keep going up on the pit, even if she is contracting every 2-3 min.  They aren’t strong enough.  Keep going up.  If we hyperstimulate her, we can just turn the pit down.”  (Note: These were his exact words.  I know this because I was so flabbergasted that he said it, I wrote it down in my notebook that very moment!  The fact is sometimes the baby is in so much distress after hyperstimulating the uterus that just turning the pitocin down isn’t enough!  And it really bothers me when doctors start sentences off with “Listen…”  Grrrrr.)

 

Me:  (jaw dropped, completely dumfounded) If I turn the pit up anymore, I am GUARANTEED to hyperstim her.”

 

Dr. F: “We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.  I’ll be back around 4:00pm.”

 

By this point I was more than annoyed with Dr. F.  I explained the situation to the charge nurse and told her that I would not be cranking the pit on room 11 unless Dr. F wrote me an order that read “Regardless of hyperstimulation or contraction pattern, continue to increase pitocin until the maximum dose is reached.”  (By the way, he wouldn’t’ write me that order.)  She basically told me to do what I felt was right because it was my license at stake too.

 

So since I had her blessing, I kept the pitocin at 10mu/min.  By this point about a half an hour had passed and I went to go check on Sarah in her room.  When I entered I noticed that Sarah was breathing pretty hard during contractions and John was no longer reading poetry.  In fact, John looked like a deer in headlights.  “The contractions feel so much stronger since the doctor examined me!” said Sarah.  “That’s great!” I said reassuringly.  “I think I want my epidural now,” she said as she breathed through a contraction.  “Where are you feeling the pain the most?” I asked.  “In my back, my back is killing me!” she said. 

 

Let me digress for a moment to explain my three rules regarding epidurals: 

 

#1  You can’t ask for an epidural during a contraction.

#2  If you say “I think I want,” we need to try something else first.

#3  You can’t ask for an epidural if you are lying or sitting in bed.

 

If one of the three circumstances above is present, I have two techniques that I employ:

 

#1 The 3 Contraction Technique:  You have to try at least one position change for three contractions first and then we reevaluate how you feel.

 

 

#2 The 15 Minute Technique: You have to try at least one position change for 15 minutes first and then we reevaluate how you feel.

 

Since Sarah said “I think I want” it was important to try something new first J.  I always explain to my patients that epidurals pose higher risk of cesarean section the sooner they are given in labor and I did reiterate this to Sarah.  In my opinion epidurals and pain medication should only be a last resort when everything else in my bag of “nonpharmacological comfort” tricks has been tried.  She agreed to the “15 Minute Technique” so I (finally) obtained and attached her to a portable monitor, got her on her feet, showed her how to drape her arms over John’s neck as if they were slow dancing, and the showed her how to sway/squat during a contraction.  While Sarah and John were “dancing” I was rubbing lavender Bath and Body Works lotion on her back and applying counter pressure to her sacrum to relieve her back pain during a contraction.  And guess what…Sarah slow danced for TWO HOURS!  She had definitely drifted off to Laborland, where time does not exist and you take life one contraction at a time J.

 

“I’m starting to feel more pressure in my bottom like I have to poop,” she said.  What a great sign!  I explained to Sarah that eventually that pressure would not only be felt during contractions but between them as well.  Sarah was getting tired so we tried some kneeling on the bed for about a half an hour while John rubbed her back.  Around 5:00pm Dr. F sauntered on in to check Sarah and as he had said he would earlier.  All that hard work certainly paid off, Sarah was 6-7 centimeters dilated!!  “I need an epidural now!” Sarah assertively told Dr. F.  “Okay sure!  I’ll write the order.  But first I am going to break your water,” he replied.  So I took a deep breath and with my best impression of an adorable puppy dog I cheerfully asked, “Could we please wait until she has the epidural in place first before you rupture her Dr. F?  That way she won’t be leaking all over herself as she is hunched over for the epidural?”  (Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do!)  Surprisingly he agreed and after he left the room I helped Sarah to the bathroom to pee. 

 

However, it turned out that at that time, another patient was in the operating room for a cesarean section and there were two other patients “in line” for epidurals before my patient was.  And since we only have one anesthesiologist in house and no others were available to come in, Sarah would have to wait.  I explained all of this to her and showered her with support and encouragement regarding how far she had come, how much work she had done, and how she could make it any amount of time longer until she got her epidural because she was a strong woman!  I don’t know how much of it she bought at that point in time because she was really really uncomfortable but regardless I couldn’t get her an epidural “now” so she would have to wait anyhow!

 

The next two hours or so (yup, the cesarean ran long and with two other epidurals in line, it took anesthesia two hours to get to Sarah) were spent walking around the room, hands and knees, side lying, kneeling, hunching over the counter, etc etc etc.  By this point Sarah was almost at her breaking point so I offered up one final suggestion: Let’s sit on the toilet.  Although skeptical at first, Sarah finally agreed to give it a chance and for the last 20 minutes before anesthesia arrived Sarah sat on the toilet, rocking back and forth.  (Turns out skeptical Sarah actually liked sitting on the toilet.  I asked for her to just give it “three contractions” and then we could get back to bed.  After three contractions she asked if she could just stay there until anesthesia came!  Hmmm, maybe this L&D nurse actually does know a thing or two J

 

By this point it was 7:00 pm.  The anesthesiologist had to poke Sarah twice to get the epidural in the right place, (Which happens a lot!  That’s another risk!  They are working blind after all!) and so we were not completely done with the epidural until 7:45-8:00pm.  I propped Sarah up on her side with a bunch of pillows, put the baby back on the monitor, shut off all the light and tucked her in.  She was snoring before I could leave the room.  At least she can take a little nap before she has to push, I thought to myself.  But what do you know, about 15 minutes later Dr. F came barreling down the hall.  I saw him coming so I jumped from the desk and said “Are you going into room 11? She just JUST feel asleep.  Please can we let her sleep for a bit?!”  No luck.  “What?!  No, I HAVE to break her water.  This is getting ridiculous now, its 8:00 for goodness sake!” he barked.  So I hung my head like Charlie Brown and followed him into the room.  He flipped on all the lights (is that really necessary) and Sarah sprung up from her sleep.  The good news however was that Sarah was 8 centimeters!!  I reluctantly passed the amniohook to Dr. F and he ruptured Sarah’s membranes.  Clear fluid…good!  I took the opportunity to change all the bedpads under Sarah and turn her to her other side.  “I’ll be back in a hour to check you again”, said Dr. F as he brushed out of the room.  I encouraged Sarah to take the next hour to try to rest as much as possible (no TV or talking on the cell phone!!) and went back out to the desk. 

 

As 9:00pm approached, I started to get a pit in my stomach.  I had a gut feeling that Sarah was probably going to be fully dilated when Dr. F came back and I was worried that because he wanted to get home (Sarah was his only patient on the floor) he would rush her into pushing before she could feel her bottom and we would end up with a cesarean section for “failure to descent.”  So at 10 minutes to 9:00pm I took a chance, went into Sarah’s room, and said the following:

 

“I remember reading in your birth plan that even if you are fully dilated you would like to wait until you feel the urge to push before you start the pushing phase.  Is this still true?  (Both Sarah and John answered yes.)  Okay, how are you feeling right now?  Do you feel the urge to push when you have contractions?  (Sarah told me that she couldn’t feel much of anything and did not have the urge to push).  Okay, so basically what I am trying to say is that I think it is a totally reasonable request to want to wait until you can feel the urge to push.  So when Dr. F comes to check you, if you are fully dilated it is okay to ask him to shut off the epidural and give you some time to start to feel the urge to push.  You don’t have to start pushing right away.  In fact, if you do, you will probably push for WAY longer than you have too.  I will back you up.   I know it sounds scary to shut off the epidural but trust me, pushing isn’t going to be so scary because you can actually DO something about all these contractions and pushing when you can feel the urge is a lot easier.”

 

Both Sarah and John agreed.  I had said my peace and turned to leave the room but at that time in came Dr. F.  He checked her and what do ya know, she was fully dilated!!!  (But still at a zero station).  “Okay, let’s start pushing!” he said as he pulled over the delivery table.  “Umm, I don’t really feel anything yet so can I wait until I can before we start?”  My whole face lit up with excitement; I was SO proud of Sarah for advocating for her birth plan!  So then I chimed in, “It’s part of her birth plan, Dr. F, can we shut off the epidural and give her at least an hour before you check her again?”  “Well let’s see how she does first,” he said annoyed, and asked Sarah to give him a “practice push.”  Thankfully this convinced him that she certainly could not feel her bottom and he agreed to come back in an hour.

 

The best part was that after Dr. F left the room John turned to me and said “Wow, did you call that one or what!”  I have to say it made me feel better that someone noticed how predictable doctors can be J

 

I shut off the epidural and for the next hour sat with Sarah and John and coached them through transition.  Although nauseous Sarah never threw up, but the pressure in her rectum was certainly getting more intense for her.  We worked on breathing for about 30-40 minutes and the last 20 minutes I showed her how to grunt during contractions and do little baby pushes to relieve some of the pressure she was feeling.  And then she said the magic words “I think the baby is coming!”  Those words ring like a choir of angels to my ears!  As I was leaning towards the call bell to page Dr. F into the room, the door opened and it was him.  He checked her and with a look of surprise said “Wow! You are a plus 2 station now!  You have done a lot of work in here!!”  I was smiling so big I thought my cheeks were going to explode! 

 

Sarah felt more comfortable pushing on her left side so John supported her right let while I supported her neck, applied cold washcloths to her forehead, and offered sips of cold water. 

 

At 10:45pm after only 37 minutes of pushing, Sarah (a first time momma) gave birth vaginally to Elizabeth Joy, weighing in at 9lbs 1 oz!!  She had a second degree perineal tear that required only a couple small stitches and never required an episiotomy, forceps, or vacuum extractor.  Sarah spent the first hour skin to skin with Elizabeth and got a great start with breastfeeding.  I only wished that I didn’t have to leave at 11:30pm and could have gotten to spend the whole 2 hour recovery time with them.  I left the hospital that night exhausted but empowered, drained but excited, and so incredibly proud of Sarah and John for sticking to their convictions and advocating for their birth experience.  I must have said to her a million times through my tears of joy, “You did it!  You did it!  You did it!” 

 

It is such a shame that it takes so much energy to fight for your right to your own birth experience during a hospital birth.  I think the mix between Sarah, John, & I was a great one, yet it still took a lot of effort on everyone’s part to avert unnecessary interventions and protect their birth plan.  And unfortunately, it was all made much more difficult starting from the very beginning when Sarah was scheduled for an UNNECESSARY LABOR INDUCTIION.  I thank God that Sarah ended up with a rewarding and empowering vaginal birth but things could have taken a turn towards CesareanTown at any point along the way, NOT related to natural labor, but related to INTERVENTIONS. 

 

The morals to the story are this:

 

1)     Remember LABOR & BIRTH are natural, INTERVENTIONS are risky, NOT the other way around.

2)     Even if you are planning on an epidural, uncontrollable circumstances may require you to labor without one for longer than you thought and therefore labor and birth preparation, whether it be reading books, taking a class, hiring a doula, or talking with other moms, is just as important if you are planning for an epidural as if you were planning for a natural birth.

3)     If you have had a healthy, uneventful, normal pregnancy up until your 37th week and your baby has a reactive non-stress test it is important to seriously question your doctor or midwife if they are suggesting, offering, or pushing a labor induction for you.    

 

Don’t Let This Happen To You #25 PART 1 of 2: Sarah & John’s Unnecessary Induction April 5, 2009

Introduction to the “Injustice in Maternity Care” Series

 

Throughout my time as a labor and delivery nurse at a large urban hospital in the Northeast, I have mentally tallied up a list of patients and circumstances that make me go “WHAT!?!  Are you SERIOUS!?  Oh come ON!” 

 

What do I mean?  If you have ever watched the amazing documentary The Business of Being Born and thought to yourself, “Oh no, that can’t be true?  That must be an exaggeration,” I am here to tell you that it is NOT an exaggeration. 

 

The fact is, the current state of maternity care in the United States is in a crisis and many times I find myself feeling defeated and helpless regarding it all.  I mean don’t get me wrong, I take my job as a nurse and patient advocate very seriously and protecting the health, safety, and autonomy of my patients is very important to me.  So seriously in fact that I have all but thrown a screaming fit at times when faced with particularly outrageous obstetricians and unjust circumstances.  (Oh wait, I have thrown screaming fits before…Haha! J )  In the end I often find myself working with nurses that I feel are dedicated and fantastic, but who none the less have had to put up with this bullshit for so long that they sort of become complacent to it. 

 

So where does that leave me?  I feel my position as an L&D nurse really puts me at the end of the line when it comes to affecting change in how woman and families approach pregnancy and childbirth.  One of the things that really inspired me to start this blog was that I realized I really only get my “hands” on families after they have already been sucked in to the medical model of maternity care.  One particularly hard pill for me to swallow is this country’s epidemic of women undergoing unnecessary interventions, including but not limited to, the inappropriate use of labor induction and augmentation and unnecessary primary and repeat cesarean sections.  But the more and more I have worked in this “culture” and talked with these women and families, the more and more I have realized that all too often these women are really lured in and duped into these interventions!  That true informed consent is not really obtained and alternatives to the obstetrician’s (and even some “med-wives’ ”) proposed course of action are NOT provided.  And a few days ago I took care of a patient that was really just the straw that broke the camel’s back. 

 

Because of this I was inspired to start the “Injustice in Maternity Care” blog series, or more appropriately the “Don’t Let This Happen to You” series.  If you are pregnant or planning on becoming pregnant, this series is dedicated to you!  Since I prefer countdowns instead of count ups, I decided to start at a random number.  I have no doubt I will be able to come up with 25 situations I have found myself or my patients in that could easily make the list.  (Hmmm, maybe I should start at 1000! J )

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Don’t Let This Happen To You #25: PART 1 of 2

Sarah & John’s Unnecessary Induction for “Oligohydramnios” and “Post-dates”

 

I came to work for 11:00 am as usual one cold and rainy Monday morning and despite the many obvious reasons to be in a bad mood, I was actually pleasantly optimistic about my upcoming shift.  Things seemed to be going my way when I saw my assignment.  I would be taking over a laboring patient of Dr. F’s in room 11 for a nurse who was only working a half shift.  Since assisting women during labor is my favorite part of being an L&D nurse, I was happy.

 

So I went to the desk closest to the patient’s room and started to look over her chart until her current nurse was ready to give me report.  Let’s see here…26 year old first time mom, first pregnancy (G1P0), no medical risks in her health history, no complications during this pregnancy.  According to her LMP she is 40 weeks and 5 days (“aka” still 9 days away from 42 weeks or true “postdates”).  A quick look at her most recent ultrasound report (performed 3 days earlier) showed a Grade II placenta (“aka” normal, healthy and well functioning), an amniotic fluid index (AFI) of 8.4 (“aka” normal, since at term a normal AFI is anywhere from 5-25), and an estimated fetal weight (EFW) of approximately 3628 grams (or 8 lbs 3oz). (Note: It is well documented in the medical literature that third trimester ultrasound scans can be off by as much as +/-2 pounds when estimating fetal weight!).  Looking at the fetal heart rate pattern on the computer showed a reactive and reassuring strip with moderate variability, presence of great accelerations and absence of decelerations.  Her vaginal exam on admission was 3cm, 70% effaced, minus 2 station.  Hmm…she must have been admitted for labor….oh wait…what’s this in the doctor’s admission note?….

 

Indication for admission: Induction for oligohydramnios (low amniotic fluid) and post dates.

Plan: pitocin and early amniotomy.

 

WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT?!?!

 

A double, triple, quadruple take proved to me that my eyes were not failing me.  And to top it all off the patient had provided us with her birth plan.  Now I don’t mean that to be sarcastic because I am not against birth plans.  It’s that her birth plan was basically requesting things that because she was being induced with pitocin, were prohibited, discouraged, or generally made very difficult by our hospital’s policy and her physician’s orders/philosophy. 

 

Here is an excerpt from her birth plan.  Although I don’t have a copy of her actual birth plan, since almost every pregnant woman with a birth plan seems to find the same website (www.birthplan.com), I can confidently replicate it quite easily.  My responses to why each of these reasonable requests were prohibited, discouraged, or generally made very difficult are provided in italics after each bullet:

 

§        I would like to be free to walk around during labor. (Although walking is not contraindicated during an induction, since the use of pitocin requires the use of continuous external fetal monitoring (EFM) and a good tracing of the fetal heart rate (FHR) and contractions, a portable telemetry monitor must be used.  And since it is a machine with limitations, as the baby swish, swish, swishes in her amniotic fluid womb bath, more often than not adequately tracing the fetal heart rate is impossible or extremely difficult, especially if the woman has a lot of extra “cushion”.)

§        I wish to be able to move around and change position at will throughout labor. (Tracing the FHR with continuous EFM is virtually impossible sitting on a birthing ball or leaning forward, positions that many women find comforting, unless you hold the monitor constantly with your hands, something that is very difficult for even the most well intentioned nurse, especially if she has more than one patient.  It is also often annoying for the patient.)

§        I do not want an IV unless I become dehydrated.  (Since pitocin is a medication administered via an IV infusion, it necessitates an IV.)

§        I do not wish to have continuous fetal monitoring unless it is required by the condition of the baby. (Induction with pitocin requires continuous EFM, even in the most lenient of hospital policies.)

§        I do not wish to have the amniotic membrane ruptured artificially unless signs of fetal distress require internal monitoring.  (Was the doctor’s plan even discussed with this patient?!)

§        I would prefer to be allowed to try changing position and other natural methods (walking, nipple stimulation) before pitocin is administered.  (Ummm…hello!)

§        Unless absolutely necessary, I would like to avoid a Cesarean.  (One of the best ways to avoid an unnecessary cesarean is to avoid an unnecessary labor induction!!  See #8 in my post: Top 8 Ways to Have an Unnecessary Cesarean Section)

§        Even if I am fully dilated, and assuming the baby is not in distress, I would like to try to wait until I feel the urge to push before beginning the pushing phase.  (We’ll get to this one later.)

 

So then came the nurse I was supposed to get report from.  “Umm, why the hell is she being induced?!,” I said.  “Oh brother, I know.  Its bullshit isn’t it!  We started the pit this morning at 8am but Dr. F couldn’t rupture her membranes at that time because the baby’s head was still high.  He said he’d be back around 1:00 pm to do it.” she replied.  “Like hell he will,” I thought to myself.  And after a quick report I entered Sarah’s room to try to get some answers. 

 

Upon entering the room Sarah was sitting up comfortably in bed while her husband, John, was typing on his laptop in a chair beside her.  First I introduced myself and let them know that barring an emergency, I would be their nurse for the next 12 hours and probably for the birth of their baby!  We engaged in some small talk for a bit, the typical “Where’re you from?  What do you do?  What’s the baby’s name going to be?”  “How has this pregnancy been for you? yaddy yaddy yada.  We then talked about their birth preparation.  Turns out they had taken a childbirth preparation class and had read two of my favorite books: Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth and The Birth Partner.  Good start!  Next I pulled up a stool and with their birth plan in hand, went over all of their plans with the both of them before things started to rev up for Sarah. 

 

Whenever a couple has a birth plan, whether it be a birth plan for as natural a birth as possible, as medicated a birth as possible, or anything in between, I like to actually sit down and review each point with them to let them know what is totally doable or what must be modified related to the patient’s condition or hospital policy.  I let them know that my main jobs as a nurse are to provide support, assure the safety of the mother and baby, and be a patient advocate.  That way everyone is on the same page and I think it helps build some trust between couple and nurse.  Kind of like saying “Hey, I am going to take your birth plan seriously since this is your experience, but we might have to compromise on some things.” 

So I started to go over the couple’s birth plan with them and basically tell them how induction with pitocin makes many of their requests impossible or very difficult but that I would do the best I could under the circumstances.  And this is where things got interesting.  The following is our conversation:

 

Sarah: “Oh yeah, I know.  We had this big birth plan for a natural birth but that’s okay, I mean, when Dr. F told us two days ago that we needed to be induced, I realized that we couldn’t have everything we had planed for.”

 

Me:  “Oh, what did he tell you was the reason you had to be induced today?” 

 

Sarah: “Because the baby’s amniotic fluid was too low and I was overdue.” 

 

John: “Yeah, umm, about that…  Two days ago was the only appointment I had missed and it’s when they set her up for an induction.  I didn’t even get a chance to ask the doctor what the normal levels for AFI were.  I mean, he told us our level was 8.  What is normal?” 

 

Me: “5 to 25 is normal for a term baby,” (stated matter-of-factly)

 

John: “SEE!  Then 8 is totally fine!  And technically we still have a week left before we are considered really ‘overdue’, right?”

 

Sarah: “John, really, relax.  It’s no big deal (awkward laugh).  We’ll know better for next time.  Really, it’s okay.  Let’s not cause any trouble.”

 

John: “Melissa, what are some really important reasons for induction.  Like, what are some real medical reasons where induction is necessary?”

 

Melissa: “Umm, do you truly want me to go into this?  Because I can but…”

 

John: “Yes please.”

 

Melissa: “Well to name a few off the top of my head:  If the baby is showing serious signs of distress on a non-stress test and biophysical profile, an AFI consistently less than 5 over multiple readings, worsening preeclampsia, signs of intrauterine growth restriction, a placenta that shows signs that it is getting too old too early in the pregnancy, etc.”  (This is where things started to get awkward for me.  I mean, I didn’t want to upset Sarah or make her feel self-conscious or distrustful of her physician because those feelings are certainly NOT going to facilitate a smooth labor.  But then again, I secretly wanted to tell her, “You don’t have to be here!”)

 

John:  “Well, the baby has had a great non-stress test every time we went to the doctor and he told us the placenta is healthy, and Sarah is healthy and her pregnancy has gone off without a hitch, she didn’t even really get morning sickness, and they said the baby is probably 8 lbs, which certainly isn’t too small!  This is really frustrating!!”

 

Sarah:  “John, it is okay.  Dr. F must have thought it was important that I deliver.  So we’ll just know better for next time.  Next time we’ll be more prepared.  But we’re here now and I am already being induced.”

 

I could see that there certainly was some tension between them regarding this issue and it seemed to me that although Sarah agreed with what John was saying, she was worried about causing any conflict or confrontation between her and Dr. F.  But I have to admit that it really bothered me that she kept repeating “We’ll know better for next time,” because THIS time is important and THIS time could have negative affects on NEXT time. 

 

Situations like this are one of the things that frustrate me the most about my job.  Sarah and John were both intelligent people.  (The were high school teachers with master’s degrees for goodness sake!).  They read the right books.  They attended childbirth classes.  They wrote a birth plan and showed it to their obstetrician earlier in the pregnancy.  (Of course I can almost guarantee that he briefly looked at it, gave them a blanket “okay” but didn’t really take the time to go over it piece by piece with them.)  And yet they were still duped into an unnecessary induction.  It is such a shame that there are so many women I care for that are more afraid of being considered a “difficult patient” for sticking up for themselves than the risks of unnecessary intervention.  It’s like being afraid to tell your hair dresser you don’t like the hair cut she gave you TIMES A MILLION!  In my opinion they were NOT provided with informed consent and NOT given the opportunity to give informed refusal.  And in my opinion once they were told they “needed” to be induced, they felt trapped and didn’t want to “cause any trouble” with the doctor. 

 

To be continued….

 

Up For Next Time: Don’t Let This Happen To You #25: PART 2 of 2 

 

Read about Sarah’s labor, the birth of her baby, and how all three of us had to fight to fulfill her birth plan!