Nursing Birth

One Labor & Delivery Nurse’s View From the Inside

Natural VBAC Hospital Birth: One Reader’s Empowering Experience September 3, 2009

Dear NursingBirth,

  

I wanted to share with you my birth story.  I thought since I did an all natural VBAC, it might be something you would want to share.  Thanks for the posts.  YOUR blog helped me get though my second birth! Your stories of inspiration that you have are amazing, and just your general  tone.  The fact that there are nurses out there like you made me have the confidence to trust the nurse with me, but also not be totally trustworthy. It helped me realize that I am the final decision maker.

 

In preparing for my VBAC I read your Injustice in Maternity Care Series and your story “I Needed to Know My Body Could Do It!”: A VBAC Story over and over.  I also read Active Birth by Janet Balaskas which I think helped me a lot, and with our first daughter (my c-section) we took Bradley classes so we both thought we were so prepared.  This time I had my mom, a friend and my husband as my birth team and we took control, which reading about it from your point of view gave me the courage to do so!!!


Thanks for all you do!  I love the blog!

 

Sincerely,

Katie C.

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Dear Katie C.,

 

I would LOVE to reprint it and am honored that you would even send it to me!  Thank you for reading and THANK YOU for being such an awesome and empowered woman and mother!!  It is women like you that are an inspiration to ME!

 

I just love everything about your birth story!!  First off, CONGRATULATIONS on your VBAC and on the birth of your daughter!!  What a wonderful time for you and your family!  It also must be really nice to NOT have to recover from major abdominal surgery and take care of a newborn and 3 year old!  Second, one HUGE pat on the back to you for choosing to go back home during your initial trip to the hospital when you were found to be 2 centimeters.  That took A LOT of courage and trust in your body and your abilities, especially since the on-call doctor was pressuring you to stay.   And I completely agree with you; choosing to labor at home until you were more “active” most definitely had a significant impact on your successful unmedicated VBAC.  Thirdly, KUDOS to you for being an active participant in your birth!!  It no doubt helped your labor progress to be upright and moving during your labor!  I am so proud of you!!  While it’s true that no one can really “plan” their birth, you did everything you absolutely could to stack the cards in your favor!!  Yay!  Yay!  Yay!!!

 

Thank you again for reading and sharing!

 

All My Best,

NursingBirth

 

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Katie C’s VBAC Birth Story

College Station, TX

 

Starting on Friday, May 22, I started having very mild but consistent contractions at 5 minutes apart at lunch time.  The rest of the day they came and went, some getting farther apart but stronger slowly as the day went on.  I also had a lot of brownish and pinkish spotting.  Figured that maybe I was in very early labor.  Did my usually stuff that day and went to bed about 9:00pm, just in case this was it. Saturday morning I woke up about 1:00am with contractions strong enough that I couldn’t sleep.  I got up and ate some peanut butter toast and drank a bunch of water and tried to go back to sleep.  Contractions were about 7 minutes apart but stronger and enough so that I was having a hard time sleeping.  Likely because I was excited.  Got up and took a bath but that didn’t help.  Tried to go back to sleep.  Got up and ate 2 huge bowls of apple cinnamon cheerios.  Finally fell back asleep about 4:30 am.  Woke up at 7am and was just very tired.  Contractions were completely bearable but figured that we were starting (maybe) and so I had Madison go to Jaxson’s (and George and Amie) house for a few hours while my mom and I stayed home to see if anything would progress.

 

Lamaze International's Tips for a Normal Birth #5:  Eat and drink as your body tells you to. Drinking plenty of fluids during labor will keep you from getting dehydrated and give you energy.

Lamaze International's Tips for a Normal Birth #5: Eat and drink as your body tells you to. Drinking plenty of fluids during labor will keep you from getting dehydrated and give you energy.

 

As the day went on they got stronger but not really closer.  I called L&D and she said 3-5 minutes apart, not able to talk through them, so I just figured I would wait.  Wasn’t ready to go to the hospital yet anyway.  I called Meredith (a friend), who was working about 2 hours away, to let her know that she might have to come back that night. We decided that she would come back that night instead of waiting for a call at 2:00 am and have to drive then.

 

Lamaze International's Tips for a Normal Birth #6: Think carefully about who you want to give you support during labor and birth. Consider hiring a doula or other professional labor support person to give you, your partner, and any other support person who's with you, continuous emotional and physical support.

Lamaze International's Tips for a Normal Birth #6: Think carefully about who you want to give you support during labor and birth. Consider hiring a doula or other professional labor support person to give you, your partner, and any other support person who's with you, continuous emotional and physical support.

 

My back started hurting and I called another friend of mine who does massage. She wanted me to come to her studio, but I really didn’t want to leave the house, so I decided to stay home. Rob called his mom and went to meet her and take Madison to her house so that we wouldn’t have here with us. By the time Rob got back, about 6:30pm, contractions were 5 minutes apart and getting stronger. I could still talk and walk, but it took effort. I called Meredith back and she said she was on her way to my house. At 7:30pm I started to panic.  The contractions seemed very strong to me, I was concentrating on them and they were consistently 5 minutes apart, so we decided to head to the hospital.  I called Meredith and told her to meet us there.  Once I got there, my contractions stopped pretty much, likely due to my nerves.  They got me into a room and set and checked me and I was 2cm and 80% effaced.  I was devastated!  I told them I wanted to go home.  The doctor on call was leery of that since I was a VBAC and they said they would really like me to stay but I refused and we packed up and came home.  (In hind site, this was the reason it all worked out!! Best Decision!!!)

 

 

I went to bed disappointed and tired, since I had been contracting for nearly 30 hours at this point and I just wanted to either be in labor or not.  I ate a snack and went to bed.  At about 3:00am I was woken by very strong contractions, 7 minutes apart, strong enough that I would flip to hands and knees in bed and rock and moan through them. Rob decided I was in labor, though I was still not sure!  LOL!  I started just sleeping in between them.  (Must have been some natural coping mechanism, since I did it until about 6:30 am!)  We started timing for real at 7:00am.  Meredith came over and she helped my mom.  My mom would time the start to start and Meredith would time the duration. They were about 5 minutes apart with about 30 seconds of what I would call pain.  The actual contraction would last about a min or longer.

 

 

As the morning went on, I could no longer do anything during the contractions except hang onto Rob and moan.  Contractions got stronger and longer.  They were 4-5 minutes apart, and lasting (pain) about 70 seconds.  During one contraction while I was hanging on to Rob I had a huge rushing feeling, almost like a pushing sensation (or so I thought) so I just said, “We have to go NOW!” We packed up and went up to the hospital.  I had 4 contractions in the car, which were the hardest ones!  [At that point I preferred to be standing during them, since sitting or lying down was excruciating.] We got back to the hospital and I was moaning and hanging on Rob and everyone in the ER was looking at me funny.  It made me laugh.  They probably all thought I was crazy!  

 

 

I went back up to L&D and they put me in the same room and got me all set up again.  The nurse said, “We were waiting for you!” I was so nervous that I would only be 3 centimeters and they wouldn’t let me go!  She checked me (about 11:00am) and I was 6cm, fully effaced!!!  I cried when she told me, I was so happy!!  Rob, Mom and Meredith clapped!  LOL!  They told me I had to stay.  I said that was fine!  They put me on the monitors and said I would be able to get off of them, but then the Dr. on call said “NO!” so I was worried I would be stuck in bed.  The nurse said, “You can move as much as you want, so long as the cord is long enough,” so I got out of bed and stood next to it for most of the day.  We said I didn’t want to be checked again except by the doctor or if they thought I was complete (i.e. pushing) so when the doctor got there at 1:00pm she checked me and I was a stretch 8!! I was still concerned that it wasn’t going to happen, but everyone else was excited.

 

Lamaze International's Tip #4 for a Normal Birth: Plan to move around freely during labor. You'll be more comfortable, your labor will progress more quickly, and your baby will move through the birth canal more easily if you stay upright and respond to the pain of your labor by changing positions. Try rocking, straddling a chair, lunging, walking and slow dancing.

Lamaze International's Tip #4 for a Normal Birth: Plan to move around freely during labor. You'll be more comfortable, your labor will progress more quickly, and your baby will move through the birth canal more easily if you stay upright and respond to the pain of your labor by changing positions. Try rocking, straddling a chair, lunging, walking and slow dancing.

 

Transition for me was the second hardest thing I have ever done.  I refused pitocin (which they really didn’t push since I was a VBAC) and did not let them break my water. I stayed at a 9 centimeters for almost 3 hours, then at 9 ½ centimeters for a while until I begged them to stretch my cervix!!  LOL!  I was on the bed with the back raised on my hands and knees and suddenly had a contraction that felt better when I kinda of pushed at it. My mom went to get the nurse and she tried to check me like that but said I really needed to lie down.  I said I didn’t want to push lying down and she said, “Sweetie you can push however you want, but I need to make darn sure you are complete so you don’t swell.” I knew that was true so I got down and she checked me and then had the doctor come in and doctor said, “I’d call that complete!” I was so freaking happy! However I was also exhausted and once I was lying down, though I was hurting, I just couldn’t get back up again.  They broke my water sometime in there.  [I think it was earlier when I was at a 9 ½ centimeters but I can’t remember.]

 

 

The first few pushes I really thought I was doing it but I think the contractions were just not strong enough.  I actually asked the doctor how far down Hana had to be to use the vacuum!  I was exhausted!  The doctor said that she wasn’t going to use the vacuum, so I was just going to have to push!  I started pushing about 4:45 pm.  She would come down (once I finally figured out just how freaking hard you have to push!!) and then scoot back in.  They explained to me that a little bit of pitocin would help to bring the contractions a little closer together, so I would be more effective in pushing, since I was having over a minute between them and Hana would just scoot back in.  I finally agreed to it at about 5:45pm.  The started it at about 6pm.  The doctor suggested a pudendal block, in case I needed an episiotomy (which while I wanted a natural tear, I wasn’t against at that point and I never thought I would come through it with no tear or cut).  I even got a mirror to see my progress, and knew right then that something was going to have to give! I made them put the mirror away!

 

 

I started pushing 5-6 times per contraction and the doctor had been with me the whole time.  She had them break the bed and get all the stuff ready and I asked “Is she coming out this way?” and the doctor laughed and said, “I’m not doing a c-section today!” She asked me also if I wanted to feel Hana’s head, but I just couldn’t bear the thought for some reason.  I kept pushing and finally she said, “Ok, this next one you’re going to have your baby!” and so I hauled back and pushed harder than I thought possible and her head popped out and I kept pushing (oops!!) and Hana was born Sunday May 24th at 6:28pm!!!  It was the most amazing thing in my life and no doubt pushing was the hardest thing in the world.

 

Lamaze International's Tips for a Normal Birth #10: Keep your baby with you after birth. Skin-to-skin contact keeps your baby warm and helps to regulate your baby's heartbeat and breathing. Keeping the baby with you in your room helps you to get to know your baby, respond to your baby's early feeding cues and get breastfeeding off to a good start.

Lamaze International's Tips for a Normal Birth #10: Keep your baby with you after birth. Skin-to-skin contact keeps your baby warm and helps to regulate your baby's heartbeat and breathing. Keeping the baby with you in your room helps you to get to know your baby, respond to your baby's early feeding cues and get breastfeeding off to a good start.

 

They gave her to me and after a few minutes (she was breathing but a little blue still) they took her over to rub her and clean her up some.  I was shaking so bad at that point that Rob had to hold her. I ended up with a 4th degree tear… not from her head, but her shoulder popped out when I pushed and the doctor wasn’t expecting it, and so that’s that.  But it isn’t so bad!  She stitched me up, and while it is sore, it beats the hell out of a c-section! Right after she was born I said, “I had a baby out of my vagina!” much to the amusement of the nurses and pretty much everyone in the room! But I can’t tell you just how amazing it was for me. I had been waiting 3 years for that.  And now I have it!  Hana was given back to me and she latched on right away and nursed like a champ for 15 minutes on each side (I was STILL being sewn up!) and finally Rob and Hana went off to the nursery.  To our surprise (and the doctor’s too) she was 8lbs 1 oz, 19 inches long.

 

Happy Birthday Hana!!!!

Happy Birthday Hana!!!!

 

 

I am recovering very well and almost feel like new!!

 

For more information on Vaginal Birth After Cesarean (VBAC) check out the International Cesarean Awareness Network's website at http://www.ican-online.org/

For more information on Vaginal Birth After Cesarean (VBAC) check out the International Cesarean Awareness Network's website at http://www.ican-online.org/

 

Pitocin Protocol for Labor Induction/Augmentation Decoded July 9, 2009

Dear NursingBirth,

 

Just curious, since I’m not a nurse but AM looking into a future of nursing or midwifery… on the Pit pump, is the max number that is shown 20? Or is it 60? The reason I ask is because I had an unnecessary induction via my own decision (not that I truly wanted to, my husband was going to be out of town and first baby.. I was scared to possibly not have him around).  I was labored with pit for 12hours with 11of those hours having a broken amniotic sac. My doc said I would have my baby between 5-6pm and I believe they went above the max to make that happen (she was born at 5:47 pm). Months after I had my daughter (which was quite painful not having an epidural) I found pictures of me laboring in my husband’s phone. And the machine said 69… I was wondering if that is still a norm or what. I refuse to have pit administered ever again casually if there is not a dire need… Hell I might not ever deliver at the hospital ever again unless truly needed!

 

Sincerely,

Amanda

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Amanda,

This is a GREAT question.  Okay here it goes…

The way it works at the big city hospital that I used to work for (and many others for that matter) is that the bag of pitocin that is used is premixed by the drug company in the concentration of 20 Units of Pitocin per 1 Liter of Lactated Ringers or Normal Saline.  (Some do 10 Units of Pitocin per 1 Liter of fluid but I have never worked with this concentration so I’ll stick to what I have the most experience with).  This is in large part so that nurses do not have to mix their own, hence making less chance for medication errors. 

Most “low dose” pitocin protocols (as was the policy of the big city hospital I used to work for) is that pitocin is started at 2 milliunits per minute (mu/min) and increased by 1-2mu/min every 15-30 min to a maximum of 20mu/min.  The goal:  To obtain an effective and adequate contraction pattern of 3-5 contractions in 10 minutes (and no more) that cause cervical change.  However, IV pumps infuse in milliliters per hour NOT milliunits per minute and therefore there are conversion charts that nurses follow.  In this concentration, 2mu/min converts to 6 milliliters per hour (mL/hr) and therefore if you do the math 20mu/min converts to 60mL/hr.  So no, you are not going crazy!  The pump most likely did read 60!

[Addendum 3/30/2010:  In order to get a 1:1 ratio of milliunits/min to milliliters/hour the concentration of pitocin must be 30 units of Pitocin in 500mL of LR (or D5LR).  Hence when you do the math, 2 milliunits/min equals 2mL/hr and so on and so forth.  At a community hospital I worked at in the beginning of 2010 (which I not so affectionately refer to as “Bait & Switch Community Hospital”), the pitocin was hung in this particular concentration and the orders typically read: “Start pitocin at 2 milliunits per minute (mu/min) and increased by 2mu/min every 15-20 min to a maximum of 34mu/min.”  This was by far the scariest order for pitocin I was ever faced with and is one of the reasons that I am leaving this hospital!]

Okay, so if a doctor wants to go above “max pit” which, according to the “low dose pitocin protocol” that a big city hospital I used to work for follows, is anything above 20mu/min (60mL/hr), then they have to write out an entirely separate order.  At that hospital the “absolute max pit” is 30mu/min (90mL/hr).  Now, the higher the dose and the longer the infusion runs for the greater the risk for side effects and adverse reactions.

These potential adverse reactions include (source: RxList Drug Guide)

1) Potential adverse reactions in the mother:

  • Anaphylactic reaction
  • Postpartum hemorrhage
  • Cardiac arrhythmia
  • Fatal afibrinogenemia
  • Hypertensive episodes
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Premature ventricular contractions
  • Pelvic hematoma
  • Subarachnoid hemorrhage
  • Hypertensive episodes
  • Rupture of the uterus
  • Excessive dosage or hypersensitivity to the drug may result in uterine hypertonicity, spasm, tetanic contraction, or rupture of the uterus.
  • Severe water intoxication with convulsions and coma has occurred, associated with a slow oxytocin infusion over a 24-hour period. Maternal death due to oxytocin-induced water intoxication has been reported.

 

2) Potential adverse reactions in the fetus or neonate related to hyperstimulation of uterus:

  • Bradycardia
  • Premature ventricular contractions and other arrhythmias
  • Permanent CNS or brain damage
  • Fetal death
  • Neonatal seizures have been reported with the use of Pitocin.

 

3) Potential adverse reactions in the fetus related to use of oxytocin in the mother:

  • Low Apgar scores at five minutes
  • Neonatal jaundice
  • Neonatal retinal hemorrhage

 

Remember the most serious of these adverse reactions occurs when pitocin is run at concentrations higher than 20mu/min for hours or even days of induction.  But unfortunately this abuse of pitocin does happen.

There is also something called a “high dose” pitocin protocol.  The way the big city hospital that I used to work for described it (right after it said that we were NOT allowed to order/follow it at our hospital) is the following:  Pitocin is started at 6 mu/min (18 mL/hr) and is increased by 1 to 6 mu/min (3 to 18 mL/hr) every 20 minutes until a maximum of 42 mu/min (126 mL/hr).  Now, I am sure that there a subtle variations on this, for example, some birth attendants/hospitals that follow this protocol will only do “high dose pit” on nulliparous women (first time moms).  However, again, the higher the dose and the longer it is infusing for, the greater chance of complications and adverse reactions. 

Now the other option could have been that the hospital that you went to uses bags of pitocin with a concentration of 10 units per liter instead of 20 units per liter.  If this is the case then everything would be doubled.  With a 10 unit/liter concentration, 2mu/min would actually be 12 mL/hr.  So that could be the case as well, although that is more unlikely.  

Now again, other nurses might report slight variations in this but I am confident that many hospital’s pitocin policy looks a lot like the ones I’ve worked at both in nursing school and as a nurse.

Last but not least please check out a great post from Jenn, a doula who blogs at Knitted in the Womb Notes.  She wrote a post a while back entitled My Rant On Pitocin and she actually copied the package insert from the pitocin bag that the nurse hung.  What saddens me most about that story is that at one point her client was considering just “going ahead” with a cesarean because the higher they put the pitocin the more the baby deceled.  However LABOR was not causing the baby distress…the ABUSE of PITOCIN was causing the baby distress!  That’s why when I hear things like “The pitocin was causing my baby’s heart rate to decel so they did an emergency c/s and Thank GOD because that OB saved my baby” I want to vomit.  Okay so if I STAB you and then bandage your wound so you don’t bleed to death….did I save your life???

Thanks again for your great question Amanda!

All My Best,

NursingBirth

 

“Pit To Distress” PART 2: Top 7 Ways to Protect Yourself From Unnecessary & Harmful Interventions

Yesterday in my post entitled “Pit to Distress: A Disturbing Reality” I wrote about a troubling way of administering the drug pitocin to augment or induce labor that some birth attendants are practicing in our country’s maternity wards.  Called “pit to distress”, the intention is to order a nurse (either verbal or written) to continue to turn up (or “crank” as is the current L&D slang) the pitocin in order to induce hyperstimulation/tachysystole of the uterus so that a women is experiencing more than 5 contractions in a 10 minute period.  This action, sooner or later, will cause fetal distress as research has shown that a baby needs AT LEAST a 1 minute break in between contractions where the uterus is AT REST in order for the baby to continue to receive adequate oxygenated blood flow from the placenta and not have to dip into his reserve. 

 

Inspiration for my post came from two posts on the subject written by Keyboard Revolutionary and The Unnecesarean.  Since yesterday I have received many comments regarding this upsetting trend and one comment in particular has inspired me to address the topic again:

 

 

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July 8, 2009

 

Dear NursingBirth,

 

I really enjoy your blog and I learn a lot from all your posts. I am wondering if there is a way (as the patient) to know if something like this is happening and refuse it? Is the patient always told how much pitocin she is getting and can she say at a certain point that she doesn’t want it any higher if she is making progress?

 

Sincerely,

Zoey

 

 

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Dear Zoey,

 

This is a GREAT question.  I love hearing from women who desire to learn more about their choices in childbirth and become more proactive in the care they are receiving.  KUDOS to you for doing both!!  I have thought a lot about this and I have come up with a list that I hope you find helpful.  Please pass it along to all of your friends, both expecting and not, so that we can both work to inspire more women to do as you do….that is, DO their research and DEMAND better care!!!

 

 

 

TOP 7 WAYS TO PROTECT YOURSELF FROM UNNECESSARY AND HARMFUL OBSTETRICAL INTERVENTIONS (including “Pit to Distress”!)

 

 

#1  Interview different birth attendants/practices before or during early pregnancy and CHOOSE a birth attendant that practices in a way that aligns with your personal childbirth/postpartum philosophy, is appropriate for your health status, and (optimally) who practices a midwifery model of care!

 

I wish I could scream this from the roof tops!  Sometimes I feel like a broken record I say this so often but I say it so often because it is SO important!!  The bottom line here ladies is that if you think you can pick any care provider you want and then just write a birth plan that clearly states your philosophy and preferences and just get what you want…..THINK AGAIN!  Birth attendants are creatures of HABIT more than anything else.  If they cut an episiotomy on the majority of their patients then what makes you think that if you ask, they won’t cut one on you?  In fact, not only will they cut one on you but they will come up with some bogus reason why it was necessary.  Likewise, if your birth attendant induces most of their patients, what makes you think that he won’t start pressuring you to set up an induction date once you hit 37 weeks! 

 

Think of it this way, if the birth attendant has a high elective induction rate, they probably feel more comfortable managing pitocin induced or augmented labors as opposed to spontaneous labors and hence, they will probably try to do everything in their power [including persuasion (e.g. the “convenience” card and the “aren’t you sick of being pregnant” card) as well as scare tactics (e.g. the “big baby” card, the “I might not be there to deliver you if you don’t” card, or my favorite the “if you don’t your baby might be stillborn/dead baby” card)] to convince you that your labor needs to be induced or augmented with pitocin.  Why?  It probably is a mix between how they were taught (i.e. medical model of maternity care), what they are used to (a self fulfilling prophecy), and a desire to be the one in “control.” 

 

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.”  (Emphasis mine)

 

So PLEASE for the LOVE of all mothers and babies, PLEASE do your homework! 

 

Of course there is always the chance that you do interview a particular birth attendant and they act one way in the office with you and then, WHAM!, are a completely different person when you step foot on L&D.  I see it happen ALL THE TIME where I work.  Just because a doctor gives you his home phone number and is sweeter than sugar in the office, doesn’t mean he won’t section you just to get to the company Christmas party!  (This actually happened to a patient I took care of!  NO lie!)  So what can you do about that! 

 

Jill from Keyboard Revolutionary recently blogged about this:

 

“Ya know, sometimes I feel bad for the good physicians out there. I know they exist. We all do. We’ve all shaken our fists in righteous indignation at the rants of Marsden Wagner. We’ve listened intently to the poetic, thickly accented declarations of Michel Odent. We’ve swooned over the tender ministrations of “Dr. Wonderful,” a.k.a Dr. Robert M. Biter. God bless those diamonds in the rough, particularly in the obstetrical field. It must be twice as hard to shine when the lumps of coal around you are so horrifically ugly.

 

I was pondering just now in the shower how so many of us think we’ve got a real gem of an OB (or any other doctor, really) until show time, and suddenly we’re hit with the ol’ bait-and-switch. Sometimes there are warning flags along the way, sometimes not. Sometimes the flags don’t pop up until it’s too late. It sucks that for many women, we don’t realize what a crock we’ve been fed until we’ve already digested it. How do you know whether you’ve got a bad egg or your own Dr. Wonderful?”

 

This leads me to my second point…

 

 

#2  Ask the RIGHT QUESTIONS and the RIGHT PEOPLE when researching potential birth attendants.

 

Two of my favorite posts from Nicole at It’s Your Birth Right! are her posts about choosing the right birth attendant entitled Choose Wisely I and Choose Wisely II.  She writes:

 

“The decision about WHO is going to be your birth attendant should NOT be left to chance.  Where you deliver, how you choose to labor, what you chose to do while pregnant and in labor, while these things are definitely important, without the proper WHO, the plan will have difficulty coming together.

 

I get questions, all the time from friends, friends of friends and even strangers.  They want my thoughts about pregnancy, labor and childbirth. I have spent HOURS talking with women providing answers and information they should be able to get from their prenatal provider/birth attendant.  I think to myself at the end of those conversations, “Why isn’t she able to get this information from her?  If  he doesn’t make her feel special, does not answer her questions, and doesn’t agree with her philosophy on childbirth and labor, why on earth is she allowing him to be her birth attendant?!”

 

When I pose this question to the women themselves, the answers unfortunately never include “Because I did my research and I found him to be the best match for me and my desired childbirth experience.”  Most of the answers I receive fall into [one of] four categories, none of which are good enough reasons alone to choose a prenatal care provider/birth attendant.   They are: “She delivered my sister/girlfriend”, “She is my gynecologist,” “He is the best/most popular person in area,” and “Her office is so close and convenient to my office/house.”

 

Now I am not trying to say that you shouldn’t trust your sister, sister-in-law, or best friend’s opinion about her personal birth attendant but if you are going to ask such a person for advice please remember that she probably has only had limited experience with that birth attendant as compared to, say, an L&D nurse or doula, and it is important to ask her exactly why she loves her birth attendant so much.  Does she love him because he trusts in birth and strived to facilitate a positive and empowering birth experience for her or does she love him because he was the only OB in the area that would agree to induce her at 38 weeks because she was sick of being pregnant?  There is a difference!!

 

If you have done some research and found a birth attendant that you think you really like, I would recommend tapping into some community resources to get the “inside scoop” about your birth attendant.  Here are some ideas:

 

1)      Contact your local grassroots birth advocacy group like International Cesarean Awareness Network (ICAN) or BirthNetwork National and try to attend a meeting.  The women that attend these meetings are often in tune with the birth culture in their community and can be GREAT resources for which birth attendants are true and which are really wolves in sheep’s clothing!  Also, don’t count out ICAN as a resource even if you have never had a cesarean.  We have a quite a few moms currently in my local ICAN group that are first timers and decided to start attending because they said they were learning so much about birth in general from our meetings!

 

2) Sign up for a childbirth preparation class that is NOT funded/run by a hospital and ask the instructor for her opinion on different birth attendants.  It is the only way to guarantee that your instructor is not held back from speaking her true feelings since hospital based childbirth instructors are working for the interest and promotion of their hospital by the very nature of their job.  Independent childbirth instructors like Lamaze, Hypnobabies, Birthing From Within, Bradley etc. etc. can be GREAT resources as to which birth attendants follow which philosophies because often times their clients come back and tell them about their experiences.

 

2)      Consider consulting or hiring a doula.  A doula is a great resource as to the true nature of a birth attendant because she is someone who is actually in the labor and delivery room with her clients and has as close to an “insider’s view” as you can get without actually working for the hospital.  If you hire a doula to be with you during your labor, they will also advocate for you, your needs, and your birth plan as well as provide essential labor support that (unfortunately) even the most well intentioned nurse might not have the time to do. 

 

 

#3  Do NOT agree to an induction of labor unless there is a legitimate obstetrical, maternal, or fetal reason for delivering the baby before natural spontaneous labor begins!!  PLEASE Do NOT agree to an unnecessary elective induction of labor. 

 

This might seem like a no brainier ladies but so many get sucked in!  They don’t call it “the seduction of induction” for nothing! 

 

Bottom line is if you want to protect yourself from such an asinine, unnecessary, and dangerous intervention as “Pit to Distress” then DON’T agree to be induced unless there is a very important medical reason!

 

BABIES AND MOTHERS HAVE THE BEST OUTCOMES WHEN THEY ARE ALLOWED TO BEGIN LABOR SPONTANEOUSLY AS WELL AS LABOR AND DELIVER WITH MINIMAL INTERVENTIONS!

 

In the Lamaze Institute for Normal Birth’s MUST READ patient education bulletin entitled Care Practice #1: Labor Begins on Its Own, author Debby Amis, RN, BSN,CD(DONA), LCCE, FACCE, and editor Amy M. Romano, MSN, CNM write:

 

“There is growing evidence that induction of labor is not risk-free. In 2007, Goer, Leslie, and Romano reviewed the entire body of literature on the risks of induction in healthy women with normal pregnancies and found that when labor was induced, the following problems may be more common:

  • vacuum or forceps-assisted vaginal birth;
  • cesarean surgery;
  • problems during labor such as fever, fetal heart rate changes, and shoulder dystocia;
  • babies born with low birth weight;
  • admission to the NICU;
  • jaundice;
  • increased length of hospital stay.”

 

Okay, enough said!

 

 

#4  If you have to be induced or augmented with pitocin for a true medical or obstetrical reason, be honest with your nurse about how you are feeling and have one of your labor companions keep track of how often your contractions are coming.

 

And this does NOT mean for your labor companion to “monitor watch”!!  It’s not a TV for goodness’ sake!

 

Research has shown that due to the risks of pitocin, continuous electronic fetal monitoring (CEFM) is a safety requirement for anyone being induced or augmented with it.  However, remember CEFM is a machine and machines have limitations.  The tocodynamometer or “toco” is “pressure transducer that is applied to the fundus of the uterus by means of a belt, which is connected to a machine that records the duration of the contractions and the interval between them on graph paper.”  However, depending on your body type, how “fluffy” your abdomen is, your position, and your gestational age, the toco might not be recording your contractions appropriately.  You might be having contractions every minute but the machine is not registering them.  This is why I always remind women that they have to tell me how they are feeling. 

 

If you are being augmented or induced with pitocin your nurse SHOULD:

 

1)      Be palpating (feeling) your fundus (top of your uterus above the belly button) before, during, and after contractions periodically throughout your labor to judge how strong they are (mild, moderate, or strong).  Palpation before and after contractions also assures the nurse that your uterus is actually coming to rest (is soft) between contractions, which assures that the baby (and mom!) are getting a break!  Remember, unless you have an IUPC (intrauterine pressure catheter) in, the toco can only tell the nurse how far apart and how long the contractions are NOT how strong they are!  That’s right!  Unless you have an IUPC in, the height of the contractions on the monitors is ABSOLUTELY MEANINGLESS!  So therefore the only way for the nurse to know how strong the contractions are is to TOUCH your belly and ASK you!

 

2) Ask you about your pain level (for example to “rate” your pain on a scale of 0 to 5 or 0 to 10) regularly during your labor unless you have specifically asked her not to ask you about your pain.

 

3) Give you periodic updates on your progress and the progress of the pitocin.

 

[Note: I can only speak for myself here but what I do when I have a patient on pitocin is first and foremost to explain the process of titrating the pitocin and what the desired outcome is (and according to our hospital’s policy the desired outcome is moderate to strong contractions that are coming every 2-3 minutes, or 3-5 in a 10 minute period), as well as keep her informed throughout the process when I am increasing or decreasing the pitocin and for what reason.  For example, I might say “It looks to me like you are contracting every 4 minutes.  What is your pain level?  Do you feel like you are getting an adequate break?  Would you like to change position?  I would like to increase to pitocin to achieve a more regular pattern.  What do you think?” or “It looks like the baby continues to have variable decelerations in his heart rate despite all of the position changes we have tried.  I am going to give you a small IV fluid bolus and turn the pitocin down some to see if it helps to resolve the decels.  The baby’s variability is still very reassuring and she is still having accelerations so she is doing well.  I just would like to keep her that way!”  Your nurse should be keeping you “in the loop” so to speak and if she is not, it is your right to ask questions!]

 

It is also important to remember that that running pitocin is much more of an art than a science.  Therefore you might think she is being “mean” if she is increasing your pitocin since you are only contracting every 6 minutes but remember, running the pitocin lower than is needed to cause cervical change isn’t going to help you either.  No nurse wants her patient to end up in the OR for “failure to progress” because she didn’t turn the pitocin up enough.  There is a happy medium somewhere that most nurses are trying to find.  So please, know that sometimes, even if you really feel like those “every 6 minute” contractions are strong enough already, it is important for the nurse to titrate the medication to achieve an effective labor pattern that promotes a vaginal delivery with a healthy baby. 

 

If your nurse is NOT doing these things then it is your right to ask questions!!!  However, please remember for your own sake that when asking questions, one attracts more flies with honey than vinegar.  Don’t start yelling at her or demanding a new nurse.  Give her a chance and ask questions first!  She might just be so busy that day that she is in the zone.  Most nurses are happy to teach when asked!

 

 

#5  Learn about and practice non-pharmacological methods of pain relief as part of your childbirth preparation and consider not getting or postponing an epidural until all other methods of non-pharmacological pain relief have been exhausted. 

 

Okay, I know that this one is a bit controversial but please here me out first. 

 

It is the truth that pitocin contractions, especially when the pitocin is being abused, are typically stronger and longer than spontaneous labor contractions.  Also, being that you have to be on continuous monitoring can also limit your movement and hence, one of your most effective and instinctual coping methods for the pain.  For this reason, many people feel that it is crazy for a woman to go though a pitocin labor without an epidural.  And when “Pit to Distress” is in play, it is truly unbearable to both experience and to witness.  However, if pitocin is administered compassionately and appropriately it is important to know that an epidural is NOT an absolute necessity.  I have seen many women do it without an epidural and many who have done it with an epidural.  So if you have to be induced with pitocin and you desire an “unmedicated” birth, your hands aren’t completely tied.  You CAN do it.  However, I have said time and time again, I would rather a woman have a vaginal delivery with an epidural than a cesarean section without.   That being said, the pitocin and epidural partnership has a dark side too. 

 

While an epidural can help the woman relax and allow the pitocin to work more effectively, most birth attendants that practice “Pit to Distress” persuade and even bully their patients into getting an epidural specifically so the nurse can “crank the pit” without the woman objecting.  But I would like to remind you that even if you can’t feel those contractions, your baby IS feeling them.  Also, epidurals themselves CAN and DO cause fetal distress and anyone who tells you that epidurals pose no risk to the baby is being dishonest!  At my work, we nickname this the “ten by ten”.  That is, almost without fail, many women who get an epidural are is likely to experience a whopping fetal heart rate deceleration lasting approximatly ten minutes about ten minutes after she is put back to bed, which of course throws everyone into a tizzy. 

 

All of a sudden mom finds herself with her face planted into the bed, her ass in the air, a mask of oxygen on her face, an anesthesiologist pushing adrenaline into her IV to increase her blood pressure and a doctor with his hands up her vagina screwing a monitor onto the baby’s head.  Most babies do recover from said decel and go on to deliver vaginally.  But it is NOT rare for the baby to NOT recover which lands mom…you know where….in the OR.  And guess what!  Since she already has that epidural in place, why they can just cut her open even faster! 

 

Please know that I am not condemning any woman who requests an epidural in labor, especially if she is on pitocin.  I just want all you women out there to know that sometimes that epidural that they keep waving in your face is just a way for them to shut you up so they can CRANK the pit.

 

 

#6  If you feel like you are contracting strongly at least every 2-3 minutes (3-5 in a 10 minute period) and the nurse or birth attendant desires to increase your pitocin, you might want to consider requesting a vaginal exam. 

 

Now, I know limiting vaginal exams is very important to many women as they are invasive and uncomfortable/painful.  I completely understand!  However, if your care provider wants to increase the pitocin and you feel it is unnecessary, asking for a vaginal exam is a way to reveal if you are making any cervical change.  If you ARE making cervical change then there is no real need to continue to go up on the pitocin!  Remember the TRUE goal of pitocin administration is to stimulate an effective labor pattern that causes cervical change.  It is NOT (despite how many birth attendants practice) just about getting a patient to “max pit.”  Every woman is different! 

 

Lastly,

 

 

#7  You could always try writing something about pitocin administration in your birth plan. 

 

For example: “If deemed necessary, I would like to try non-pharmacological methods of labor augmentation and induction including (blank) first before resorting to pharmacological methods.  However, if my birth attendant and I agree that pitocin will be administered to me, I request that the pitocin be administered following the “low dose” protocol and is 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.”

 

I will be very honest with you.  If your birth attendant or hospital does not practice in this way, it is doubtful that this request will be granted.  However, I suppose it can’t hurt and is worth a shot!  At least it can provide a sympathetic nurse with another platform on which to argue with the birth attendant if necessary (like, “But Doctor X, your patient has specifically requested a low dose pit protocol!”

 

This should be a last resort!  Remember, writing something in your birth plan does not guarantee you it is going to happen if your birth attendant doesn’t practice that way!  Please refer back to point #1 about choosing the RIGHT birth attendant for you!!! 

 

 

All My Best,

NursingBirth

 

“Pit to Distress”: A Disturbing Reality July 8, 2009

Dear NursingBirth,

 

I just saw a couple of posts about “pit to distress” on Unnecessarean and Keyboard Revolutionary’s blogs. Can you comment on that as an L&D nurse?! Is the intent really to distress the baby in order to “induce” a c-section?  I’m distressed that such things may actually happen, and am holding out a little hope that it’s a misunderstanding in terms….

 

Thanks!!!

Alev

 

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Dear Alev,

 

I wish I could put your heart and mind at ease and tell you, from experience, that this type of outrageous activity (i.e. “pit to distress”) does not happen in our country’s maternity wards but unfortunately it does.  I know that it does because:

 

1) I have read and heard stories from other labor and delivery nurses who have worked with birth attendants who practice “pit to distress,”

 

2) I have read and heard stories from women (and their doulas!) who have personally experienced the consequences of “pit to distress,”

 

and, most importantly…

 

3) I personally have worked with attending obstetricians who subscribe to this philosophy. 

  

Before I start my discussion on this topic I would like to quote a blog post I wrote back in April entitled “Don’t Let This Happen To You #25 PART 2 of 2: Sarah & John’s Unnecessary Induction”.  This post is actually the first post I ever wrote for my Injustice in Maternity Care Series.  It is a TRUE story (although all identifying information has been changed to adhere to HIPPA regulations) about a first time mom who was scheduled for a completely unnecessary labor induction and the following excerpt is a good example of how “pit to distress” is ordered by physicians, EVEN IF they don’t actually write it out as an order (although some actually do!)

 

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

 

“…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.”

  

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.  However, this is not what many physicians I work with ask you to do.   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.”

 

 

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

 

Ladies and gentleman the account that you have just read is called “Pit to Distress” whether the pitocin order was actually written that way or not.  What Dr. F gave me was a VERBAL ORDER to increase the pitocin, regardless of contraction or fetal heart rate pattern, until I reached “max pit,” which he acknowledged would hyperstimulate her uterus.  This goes against our hospital’s policy and the physical written order that this doctor signed his name under.  However, like some other doctors I work with, none of that mattered to him.  What he wanted was for me to “crank her pit” regardless and from my experience with this doctor, at the first sign of fetal distress we would have been crashing down the hallway for a stat cesarean!

 

Hyperstimulation of the uterus (more appropriately called tachysystole) is harmful and dangerous for both mothers and babies: 

 

“If contractions are persistently more often than 5 contractions in 10 minutes, this is called “tachysystole.” Tachysystole poses a problem for the fetus because it allows very little time for re-supply of the fetus with oxygen and removal of waste products. For a normal fetus, tachysystole can usually be tolerated for a while, but if it goes on long enough, the fetus can be expected to become increasingly hypoxic and acidotic.

 

Tachysystole is most often caused by too much oxytocin stimulation. In these cases, the simplest solution is to reduce or stop the oxytocin to achieve a more normal and better tolerated labor pattern.”

Electronic Fetal Heart Monitoring” by Dr. M. J. Hughey

 

The truth, however, is that many times stopping tachysystole is not as easy as just shutting the pitocin off.  Although the plasma half-life of pitocin is about 6 minutes, it can take up to 1 hour for the effects of pitocin to completely wear off.  And for a baby in distress, one more hour in a hyperstimulated uterus is too much!  So guess what?!  The physician has two choices:

 

#1 Administer yet another drug (like terbutaline) to decrease contractions and wait and see (unlikely to happen), or

 

#2 Administer yet another drug (like terbutaline) to decrease contractions while heading to the OR for an emergency cesarean section (much more likely to happen.) 

 

Because in the end…who wants to “sit” on a compromised baby?!

 

 

What is also unsettling is that my encounter with Dr. F regarding the most appropriate administration of pitocin for that mother was downright pleasant as compared to some of the other encounters I have had with much more intimidating and hot-headed physicians.  Labor and delivery nurses all over this country (including myself) have been bullied, yelled at, cursed out, and down-right humiliated by birth attendants who want you to “keep cranking the pit” regardless of maternal contraction or fetal heart rate patterns or in general, refusing to be a part of or questioning other harmful obstetrical practices.

 

I once had an obstetrician, while in the patient’s room, call me “incompetent” in front of the patient and her entire family because I had not continuously increased the pitocin every 15 minutes until I reached “max pit” and instead, kept the pitocin at half the maximum dose because increasing it anymore caused my patient to scream and cry in pain and her uterus to contract every 1 minute without a break.  Who wants a nurse to take care of them that was just called “incompetent” by their doctor??!? 

 

Another time I had a physician (who via this program called “OBLink” can watch her patient’s monitor strips from her own home or office) call me on the phone from her house to chew me out about not having the pitocin higher.  When I explained that I had to shut the pitocin off an hour earlier and start back up at a slower rate because the baby started to have repetitive and deep variable decelerations despite position changes, IV fluid bolus, and 10 liters of oxygen via face mask, I was told that the decels “weren’t big enough” to warrant such a “drastic measure as shutting of the pitocin” and I was “wasting her time” because “at the rate [I] was going [her] patient wouldn’t deliver until after midnight.”

 

I had yet a third doctor tell me once that he wished that only the “older” nurses on the floor would take care of his patients because they aren’t “as timid” and “are not afraid to turn up the pitocin when a doctor orders them to.”  That younger nurses like me are “too idealistic” and don’t understand “how the world really works.” 

 

And yet another time I had a physician tell me that I needed to “crank the pit to make this baby prove himself either way” and that if I couldn’t do “what needed to be done” for his patient, then he would ask the charge nurse to “replace me with a nurse who could.”

 

And guess what, when I came in the next day and read the birth log, I discovered that 3 out of those 4 patients ended up with cesarean sections after I had left that night for “fetal distress.” 

 

AAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!

 

Although not one of these physicians actually wrote in black and white “Pit to Distress” and they didn’t have to; their words and actions speak to their true intentions.  These physicians are smart in the fact that they know that actually writing “pit to distress” like some practitioners do can land them with a law suit if an adverse outcome happens and they find themselves in court.  So while it is true that one’s medical record might not show “pit to distress” on the order form, it doesn’t mean that it didn’t happen to you!  What these doctors do instead are bully nurses into to doing their dirty work for them.  (And I would like to note that just like Dr. F, I have yet to encounter one physician who will actually physically put their hands on the IV pump and turn up the pitocin themselves when I refuse to do it!…..They know better!)

 

 

As a registered nurse my practice must adhere to the American Nurses Association Code of Ethics for Nurses.  Here is an excerpt:

 

“The nurse’s primary commitment is to the patient, whether an individual, family, group, or community.  The nurse promotes, advocates for, and strives to protect the health, safety, and rights of the patient.”

 

What these practitioners don’t realize is that when they work with nurses like me (and there are many out there!!), they are working with someone who values the health and safety of women and babies (as well as their nursing license) much more than a fake cordial kiss-ass relationship with some high-and-mighty doctor!  But let me tell you, its really frigging hard to work like that!  That is, to constantly battle with practitioners who have such a different philosophy about maternity care than you do!  I mean, even the best nurses will start to doubt themselves if they are constantly being bullied and told that they “can’t cut it” or are “incompetent” if they don’t follow the status quo!  Like many other nurses, sometimes I just don’t have the energy to argue and fight.  Sometimes I have down right lied to a doctor over the phone about how high the pitocin really is (telling them it’s running at a much higher rate than it actually is).  Other times I just “forget” to turn up the pitocin for hours at a time.  One time I actually disconnected the pitocin and discretely ran it into the floor!

 

Women of this earth…TAKE BACK YOUR BIRTH!!!  We need YOUR voice!  We need you to choose caregivers that practice evidenced based medicine, and BOYCOTT ones that don’t!  We need you to HIT THEM WHERE IT HURTS….in their WALLET!!  We need you to DEMAND better care!!  We nurses, birth advocates, doulas, childbirth educators, midwives, etc. etc. can’t make change without YOU!!

 

Thank you, Thank you, THANK YOU to Jill at Keyboard Revolutionary and Jill from The Unnecessarean for their blog posts on this issue!  I second their anger, outrage, and voice for change!!!

 

Are you an L&D nurse who has ever been ordered to “pit to distress?”  Are you a mother who has ever experienced the consequences of a birth attendant who followed a “pit to distress” philosophy?    Please share your story with us!! 

 

In closing I would like to say that I am NOT anti pitocin, but like ALL labor & delivery interventions, I speak out and advocate for the appropriate, evidencedbased, and safe use of them!

 

Please check out my next post!  “Pit To Distress” PART 2: Top 7 Ways to Protect Yourself From Unnecessary & Harmful Interventions

 

The “All That Matters” Phenomenon: Grieving the Loss of a Vaginal Birth April 24, 2009

The other day I had the privilege of taking care of a couple who was in labor with their first baby.  Denise, a G1P0 at 41 weeks and 3 days, broke her water at 1:00am with contraction starting about 8-10 minutes apart at 4:30am.  She and her boyfriend, Ralph, labored at home until about 8:00am when the contractions were coming about every 3-5 minutes apart.  When she arrived to the hospital at 8:30am, a resident’s vaginal exam revealed that she was 3cm/50%effaced/-3 station!!  Since she was a young healthy woman (her health history only comprised of PCOS, or polycystic ovarian syndrome) and had had an uncomplicated, normal, healthy pregnancy, she was “allowed” to ambulate in the halls all morning but required to stay on continuous telemetry monitoring and not allowed to labor in the tub per her physician’s direct order. 

 

(Side Note:  This particular physician, Dr. O, is an older physician who is part of a group that is well known for aggressive labor management.  They induce almost all of their patients for one reason or another, often once they hit 39 weeks, and if a patient is not already ruptured once they get to the hospital, they will artificially break their patients’ water regardless of dilatation.  That’s right, I have personally refused to give them an amniohook when a patient is only 1 or 2 centimeters and they sneak in the room without me and break her water anyway!  One time, Dr. U (another doctor in that group) ruptured a patient who was still in triage!  They are notorious for setting up “post dates” inductions at 40 weeks and 1 day and although they advertise that they attend VBACs, their statistics show something quite different: Almost NO “successful” VBAC vaginal deliveries and a cesarean rate that is at least 40%.  Myself and many other nurses have bombarded them with research and position statements from a variety of sources, including their OWN association (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, or ACOG)) that states intermittent auscultation is the standard of care for low risk, uncomplicated pregnancies, but they refuse to listen.  So Denise’s situation is unfortunately not uncommon.  To be honest, I am surprised they “let” her get past 41 weeks!  I think they view it as a slap in the face to attend any delivery after 40 weeks!)  

 

When I came on at 3:00pm, Denise was in the middle of getting an epidural.  Turns out that at 12:30pm, Dr. O’s vaginal exam revealed that the patient was “only” (his words) 4cm/80%/-3 so he ordered pitocin augmentation and the pit was started at 1:00pm.  Although the patient had originally told the nurse it was her plan to labor without an epidural, pitocin lead to stronger, longer, and closer contractions which lead to the patient requesting one.  And an epidural was granted.  For the next 3 hours I was instructed to continue to turn up the pitocin to obtain 5 contractions in 10 minutes.  I titrated appropriately until I obtained moderate to strong contractions (per my palpation) every 2-3 minutes, where the baby was still looking good on the monitor.  I changed the patient’s position every 30 minutes: right side, sitting up high, left side, sitting up high, etc. in hopes that I would help the baby makes his way down the birth canal and not get “stuck” in any acynclitic position. (According to the patient, she was complaining of severe back pain the last few hours so I was concerned about an occiput posterior baby.  So since Denise could no longer move herself to help move the baby, I was doing the moving for her!) 

 

At 7:00pm Denise was feeling a lot of rectal pressure, so much that she was breathing through it (even though the epidural was still effective at taking away her back and abdominal pain).  We all were very excited!!  Since Denise was only feeling rectal pressure during contractions I told her it would be best to wait until she was feeling rectal pressure at all times, with our without a contraction, before we called the doctor.  Well Dr. O must have had ESP because he came into the room to perform a vaginal exam.  His exam revealed that Denise was 4cm/100%/ -1 station!  The patient was a bit disappointed that she was still only “4cm” but I assured her that he was completely thinned out and that she had brought the baby down a whole bunch!  However, Dr. O had a different take on it, “You are still only 4cm, he said, “And if you don’t make any significant progress within the next hour we will have to talk about a change in the plan.”  (Could he have BEEN any more vague?!)  And then he turned around and walked out.  “What does he mean by change of plan?” Denise asked me.  “Well I’m not sure,” I said back, “let me go find out.” 

 

The fact of the matter is that I knew exactly what Dr. O meant….he meant that he was going to do a c-section.  But I didn’t want to tell her that for two reasons, 1) it is NOT my responsibility to tell a patient that someone else is going to perform a cesarean section on them, it’s the SURGEON’S responsibility, and 2) I hate even talking about the possibility of a cesarean section when someone is in the middle of labor because it is like you are telling the patient you are already “giving up” on them.  Of course I understand that some cesareans are necessary, but I know that if I was in her position and someone gave me a “cesarean ultimatum” during labor, I would feel like people were giving up on me!  I mean here she is, basically being given a one hour ultimatum, and because of the limitations of the epidural it is not even like she can “do” something to play an active role:  she can’t walk around or get in the tub, we’ve already got her hooked up to pitocin and an epidural, we’ve already tried the position changes, her water is already broken, and I am pretty sure she doesn’t know magic.  So here I am feeling like my hands are tied, but trying to stay positive and encouraging so that the patient does not feel upset, passive, defeated, or worried.  Because those emotions do NOT facilitate labor, and in fact, those emotions can actually release hormones in your body that directly work AGAINST labor. 

 

So I walked out to the desk to find Dr. O but he had already left.  (I don’t think he went very far, maybe into another patient’s room, but nonetheless, he was no where to be found.)  I felt an obligation to tell Denise something so I went back into to the room and said this:

 

Me: “Denise, I think Dr. O is with another patient right now but once I find him, if you would like, I can ask him to come back in to answer any questions you might have.”

 

Denise:  “Yeah, I would like him to come back in because I don’t want a c-section.”  (starting to get a bit teary eyed)  “I mean, is that what he meant by change of plan?  Can they give me any other medicine to help with my contractions?”

 

Me:  “Well I don’t know what he meant exactly but he could have meant he would like to try an IUPC which stands for intrauterine pressure catheter.  It is a thin tube that lies beside the baby’s face and actually measures in millimeters of mercury how strong your contractions are.  If I have an IUPC, I might be able to go up on the pitocin if the contractions aren’t “strong enough.”  Right now the external monitor only tells me when they are coming and when I feel your belly it is all subjective.  Unfortunately there isn’t any other medicine we can give you to help “speed up” labor besides pitocin.  He could also have meant a cesarean.  But we won’t know until we talk to him.”

 

Denise: (almost in a scared tone)  “But I don’t want a c-section!  I want to push my baby out!  Oh I don’t want a c-section!” 

 

Me:  (feeling like I wish I could help but don’t know how)  “Well let’s talk about what you can do.  If Dr. O comes in to check you, you have the right to refuse his vaginal exam and request more time.  You also have the right to ask him about all of your options, if there are any, besides a cesarean.  You have the right to ask him his reasons for why he thinks a cesarean is necessary.  You have the right to hear all that information and then take as much time as you need to decide what you would like to do.  If you need some alone time with Ralph or if you need to call your mom or any other family members you have that right.  I just want you to know that if you and Dr. O decide together that a cesarean is the best option, it will NOT be an emergency and therefore you can take as much time as you need to prepare.  The baby is not in distress and in fact, has looked beautiful on the monitor all day.   If you both decide that a cesarean is the right course of action, I promise I will go over everything to expect with you, I will make sure anesthesia sees you before you get to the OR so you can ask them any questions, and barring any other emergency, I will be with you the entire time, from the moment I wheel you in to the OR, to the moment I wheel you out of the recovery room.  I’ll help you breastfeed as soon as possible.  I will stay with you the whole time…”

 

At this point I was starting to get a bit emotional and realized I was rambling so I excused myself and went out to the desk.  I just knew in my heart what was going to happen and I was deeply saddened by it.  And don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to be overly dramatic but I just knew that when she broke her water at 1:00am and came to the hospital at 3cm, she was not expecting to end up with a cesarean. 

 

Well exactly one hour later Dr. O came back into the room to do a vaginal exam.  I turned towards Denise and I said, “Is that okay with you, Denise?” and she said “Yes.  According to Dr. O, Denise was still the same and had made no “progress.”  Dr. O, while standing at the foot of the bed, looked up at Denise and said “Well Denise, we’ve run out of options here.  If we continue to keep you on pitocin eventually the baby is going to run out of gas and crash.  Uteruses can only take so much and your uterus is going to get thinner and thinner and will be at risk of rupturing if we continue like this.  You have essentially been 4cm for 7 hours and for a primip, you need to progress at least one centimeter an hour.  We need to do a cesarean and as soon as I tell the charge nurse we’ll get going on it.”

 

At this point Denise burst into tears, “OH GOD, BUT I DON’T WANT TO HAVE A C-SECTION!  I WANTED TO PUSH HIM OUT!  I WANTED TO PUSH HIM OUT!   I REALLY THOUGHT I COULD DO IT!  I WANTED TO DO IT!  I WANTED TO PUSH MY BABY OUT!”  Ralph gave her a big hug and I kept squeezing her hand trying to bit my lip so that I didn’t start to cry myself.  She was sobbing.  And then Dr. O said “Listen, Denise, there is no reason to get like this.  I mean, when you came to the hospital this morning I also had 4 other patients that came in around the same time.  Everyone else has already delivered…you’re the only one left.  And some women even came in with cervixes more closed than yours.  You see, the baby just isn’t coming down enough in the birth canal to dilate your cervix, and it’s just a failure to progress.  It’s just failure to progress that’s all.”  Then he turned to me and said “As soon as I tell the charge nurse we’re going to go.  So then I said, “Well I am not at all ready to go yet.  And I think she deserves a minute to come to terms with all of this, Dr. O.  She deserves some time to make her decision and call her family.  And then Dr. O looked straight at me, baffled, said “Whatever” and then stormed out slamming he door behind him. 

 

I threw myself onto Denise and have her the biggest hug I could.  I whispered over and over in her ear, “You are NOT a failure Denise, I know you wanted to push him out.  I know you did.  You have done so much work today and you never gave up.  You are a strong woman, Denise, you did not fail and your body did not fail.  NOBODY is a failure here.  It’s okay to cry.  It’s okay to cry, Denise.  Please know you did so much for your baby and you never gave up.  You are a strong woman…”

 

I stayed there for about 10 minutes with her and Ralph, letting her cry.  When she calmed down a bit I encouraged her to take her time to talk with Ralph and call her mother or family if she needed too.  I told her that I needed to get some things ready and that I was going to give them some privacy.

 

So by this point I was pretty upset.  For one, I think the way Dr. O went about the whole thing was so cold and insensitive.  Um hello, do you think telling a patient that “everyone else” has already delivered is going to make them feel better!?  Because in my opinion, it just stresses the insane notion that her body is in someway a “failure.”    I could mull over and over and over again in my head everything that surrounded this whole situation and I have almost made myself sick over wondering if this was really a necessary cesarean for “true” arrest of descent/dilatation.  But regardless, I feel like he completely took Denise and Ralph out of the whole process and it should have been handled better.  Second, Dr. O did NOT go over the risks and benefits of the cesarean with them, claiming later that the residents “review that” on admission (which, by the way, they don’t…they just have everyone sign a consent for “vaginal delivery possible cesarean section”).  Third, Dr. O did not at all go over other options besides cesarean, and even if he thought the safest course of action was a cesarean at that point in time (which I am not disputing), he didn’t even say anything like “and our other options, X, Y, & Z, are not the best course to take because of A, B, C, so it is in my professional opinion that the safest course of action is to perform a cesarean section.  But please take your time to talk it over.”).  I have seen other doctors do this before.  Even in situation where everyone agrees that a cesarean is absolutely necessary, it is still the patients right to make the final decision.  And finally, he didn’t even give them a chance to talk it through and when I asked for “some time” he got pissed. 

 

So I walked out to the desk to get my paperwork ready and Dr. O was writing a note in her chart:

 

Dr. O:  (sarcastically and not even looking up from what he was writing)  “So when do you think you’ll be ready to go?”

 

Me:  (frustrated)  “It’s not about me being ready, it’s about Denise and Ralph being ready!  I think it is more than just a courtesy to allow them some time to come to terms with this new development.  They have a RIGHT to some time, Dr. O.  This isn’t an emergency.  The baby has looked great on the monitor all day and I shut the pitocin off.”

 

Dr. O:  (frustrated)  “I don’t know why you are fighting me on this!” 

 

Me:  (increasingly frustrated) “I’m not fighting you on ANYTHING Dr. O, but you have to understand, she is devastated that she is going to have a cesarean.  We owe it to her to let her calm down and not wheel her down the hall as a sobbing mess!  Her whole family lives in a different state, including her mother, and I think that it isn’t too much for her to ask for some time to call her family before she goes in for MAJOR ABDOMINAL SURGERY!” 

 

And then he said it….he said that phrase that breaks my heart every time I hear it…

 

Dr. O: “She’ll forget all about it when she is holding a baby in her arms.”

 

This phrase comes in many forms but every one says the same thing, “All that matters is that you get a baby out of this deal… and your experience, your experience doesn’t matter.”

 

Kristen, a doula, graduate student, mom, and author of the blog Birthing Beautiful Ideas wrote an amazingly insightful and moving must read post entitled, “Scars That Run Deep: ‘All That Matters’ After A Cesarean” that explores this very topic. 

 

Kristen writes:

 

“You have a healthy baby.  That’s what matters.”

 

Mothers who express sadness, anger, or disappointment after undergoing a cesarean section often hear these words uttered by (presumably) well-meaning family, friends, and health care workers.  In fact, these words seem to be one of the most common responses that people give upon hearing that a mother has had a cesarean.  I presume this is because it can be jarring to witness the juxtaposition of the joy and wonder of a newborn life and the mother’s grief over her baby’s entrance into the world.  And so, particularly in a culture that does not have a well-developed ritual for expressing and experiencing grief, people try to fill up the mother’s “empty grief jar” with an elixir of “healthy baby joy.”  But, as we all know, grief and joy don’t work like that.

 

Kristen goes on to write about why having a healthy baby isn’t “all that matters” after a cesarean, the concept of mourning the loss of a vaginal birth, and why a mother’s birth experience IS part of “what matters” regarding the entire childbirth experience.  Kristen also outlines step by step details about what a mother experiences when she undergoes a cesarean, from the minute the wheel her into the operating room to the first time she gets to hold her baby to caring for a newborn after major surgery.  Kristen writes,

 

In addition, the de-valuing of the mother’s birth experience–a de-valuing implied by the “healthy baby line”–undermines the significance of one of the most transformative days of a mother’s life.  For on the same day that her baby is born, she is “born” as a mother.  And if this dual-birth is marked by passivity and separation, then it is no wonder that the mother grieves her birth experience.  That having her healthy, miraculous, wonderful baby is not all that matters to her.

 

In fact, her sadness is partially a result of being separated from her healthy, miraculous, wonderful baby during the first few moments and even hours of that baby’s life.  And it can be the result of a feeling that her body is “broken,” “unable” to bring her child into the world on its own.  And it can be the result of a feeling that her body might not even “know” how to work properly to bring a child into the world.  And it can be the result of feeling as if she has disappointed not only herself but also her partner and/or other friends and family.  And it can be the result of the sheer difficulty of recovering from major abdominal surgery and simultaneously caring for a newborn baby, two of the most physically and emotionally demanding experiences that any person will ever undergo.

 

In other words, her sadness and her grief are understandable.  They are normal.

 

Please check out Kristen’s post in it’s entirety on her blog.  The excerpts I have provided here are only a small piece of this very eye opening composition.

 

In the end Denise gave birth to her 9lb 8oz baby boy, Rayne Nicolais, by cesarean section at 9:01pm.  Baby Rayne was found to be in an occiput posterior position and still very high in the pelvis when he was born.  I had the opportunity to stay with Denise, Ralph, and Baby Rayne for the entire experience and with the help of a ton of pillows, Denise breastfeed Rayne skin to skin in a football hold for an entire hour and 15 minutes in the recovery room.  And boy was he a vigorous breast feeder!! 

 

Although all in all, there was a positive outcome to Denise’s birth experience, I do wish that for Denise and Ralph, things could have turned out differently.  I wish that Denise could have PUSHED her baby out like she so desired and worked so hard for.  And of course I am grateful that at the end of the day Baby Rayne was a happy, healthy, chubby, bouncing baby boy.  In the recovery room where Denise really held her baby boy for the first time, she welled up, looked at her boyfriend and said, “I think I am falling in love all over again!”  It was so beautiful!  As a nurse, experiences like this solidify what I feel in my whole being is true about pregnancy and childbirth; That the journey is as important as the destination. 

 

In closing I would like to leave you with one of my favorite quotes…

 

“It’s not just the making of babies, but the making of mothers that midwives see as the miracle of birth.” ~ Barbara Katz Rothman.

 

Don’t Let This Happen To You #24 PART 2 of 2: Jessica & Jason’s Back Door Induction April 21, 2009

Continuation of the “Injustice in Maternity Care” Series

 

Please see, Don’t Let This Happen To You #24 PART 1

 

My first hour with Jessica & Jason was spent getting to know them, tidying up the room, setting it up the way I like it (I know, sometimes I can be a bit anal about clutter!  I don’t know how some nurses can work in so much clutter!!), and turning up the pitocin a couple of times.  Around 4:00pm I had left the room to scrounge around for a few more pillows for Jessica.  This took me about 10 minutes since pillows are pretty much like gold in the hospital: rare to find and very precious to have!!  Haha!  Anyways, as I walked into the room Dr. T was leaning over the trash can throwing something away and Jessica was lying flat on her back in bed, spread eagle, completely uncovered, and sitting in a big puddle.  It took me a few seconds to piece together what had happened.  Turns out Dr. T was throwing away the amniohook he used to BREAK Jessica’s water WITHOUT me being in the room!  I quickly stepped towards the bed to raise her head and cover her up.  The entire bed was soaked.  It was getting harder and harder for me to contain myself and I could feel the blood boiling up into my head. 

 

Me:  “What’s going on?”  (said in the nicest voice I could muster up)

 

Dr. T:  “Oh, are you taking care of Jessica today?”

 

Me:  “Yes.”

 

Dr. T:  “Well, I just got out of the OR and I wanted to check her progress and apparently the residents hadn’t ruptured her yet!  So I just did.”

 

Me: “Oh, well, what nurse came in here with you?  I’d like to thank her.”  (also said in the nicest voice I could muster up but clearly my sarcasm was piercing through all my attempts to stay calm)

 

Dr. T:  “No, it was just me.”

 

Me:  “Oh really, well you should have come and got me.  I would have been more than happy to assist you.  It would have liked to lay some more chux pads down under her so that when you broke her water it wouldn’t cause so much of a flood.  I’m going to have to change all the sheets now, all of them.  And what if the baby had a decel…”

 

Dr. T:  (interrupting me)  “Well I couldn’t find you.”  (turns towards Jessica)  “I’ll come back in a couple of hours to check you.”  (turns to walk out of the room and then spins around and turns towards me)  “Why is her pit only at 8mu?”

 

Me:  “Jessica didn’t even get to the hospital until 1:30 and policy states we can’t start pitocin until the patient is fully admitted.”

 

Dr. T: “Well she’s still only 4cm so you are going to have to keep going up on the pit if she is going to get anywhere.”  (This statement really takes the patient right out of the equation doesn’t it!  Outrageous!)

 

Me:  “What’s the baby’s station?  Is the baby still high?”

 

Dr. T: “Um yes, but the head is now well applied.  She’s 4cm/50%/ -3…..maybe -2.”

 

At this point all I can think of is “Liar, liar, liar!”  Dr. T turned to leave the room and after he left I assisted Jessica out of bed to the bathroom so that I could change all of her sheets and help her into a new dry gown. 

 

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I need to digress for a moment to explain exactly how outrageous it was for Dr. T to check the patient and rupture her membranes without me or any other nurse in the room.

 

#1 Although this might seem like a silly thing to be upset about, the fact that he ruptured her membranes without even putting down a few extra chux pads (which were sitting right on the counter) is very rude in my opinion.  It’s like saying “You clean up my mess because I am above that.”  Honestly it wasn’t that difficult to change the bed over and help the patient into a new gown but it’s the principle of it that bugs me.

 

#2  It is an unwritten rule at my hospital that a nurse is to accompany any doctor or midwife during a vaginal exam.  Even the residents are taught this during orientation.  Is a doctor or midwife fully capable of performing a vaginal exam solo…of course they are!  But it isn’t about that.  It’s mostly about touching base with the nurse first to see how things have been going all shift with the patient.  It’s about good communication and team work.  And sometimes another vaginal exam isn’t necessary and the nurse can advocate against it!!!  I haven’t met one doctor or midwife that attends births at my hospital that has a problem with this arrangement….unless they are trying to do something that they know the nurse will question them on….like performing an early amniotomy on a patient whose baby is still high!!  The fact is that that is the ONLY reason Dr. T didn’t come and get me…because he knew that I, and many other nurses, would question the necessity and safety of such an intervention.  So he had to SNEAK it.  What he did was so SNEAKY and it infuriated me! 

 

#3  The other most important reason to obtain the assistance of the patient’s nurse (or ANY nurse at the desk really) is just in case something bad was to happen.  Although something acutely bad is unlikely to happen from just a vaginal exam, the nurse’s role in assisting with the vaginal exam is to maintain the patient’s comfort and protect the patient’s modesty.  (As you can see, Dr. T did none of those things, and things like that happen a lot with some of the docs I work with.  All of the pregnant readers I know understand how uncomfortable it is to lay flat on your back for any length of time when you are pregnant!)  But there ARE acute risks with performing an amniotomy, especially an early or prelabor amniotomy. 

 

Risks related to amniotomy that have emergent consequences include:

1)     Umbilical cord prolapse

2)     Fetal heart rate decelerations related to umbilical cord compression

3)     Change in presenting part

 

Let me give you an example.  One time I had a doctor that ruptured a patient with polyhydramnios and a high presenting part.  (That means, the baby’s head was not well engaged into the pelvis and was still “floating”.)  After the gush of water flooded the bed, the baby started to have pretty serious heart rate decelerations with every contraction related to compression of the umbilical cord.  When the doctor did a vaginal exam to check her dilation, he found that he was no longer feeling a head, but a HAND.  Since the baby was high and floating in a large amount of fluid and the head was not well engaged when he ruptured her membranes, the first thing to rush out was the baby’s hand.  The doctor was unsuccessful at moving the hand back.  And that woman, a grandmultip (G6P5) who had had FIVE previous spontaneous normal vaginal deliveries ended up with an emergency cesarean section.  And it was VERY IMPORTANT that I was in the room when all of this happened since I was the one who ended up almost single handedly assisting her into knee chest, throwing on some oxygen, and wheeling her down to the OR as the doctor rushed to scrub in.  Yes, emergencies can happen that fast.  (This one however was almost completely avoidable!!)  Please know that I am not telling this story to scare anyone.  But the LESS interventions you have, the significantly LESS chance you have of that kind of emergency happening.  And if a physician or midwife is going to take the chance with any intervention like amniotomy, it is very important that he or she has assistance from a nurse in the room. 

 

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Okay, thanks for letting me rant there for a minute.  Back to the story…

 

So after I helped Jessica clean up I offered to help her out of bed into any position she liked.  After all, it’s important to use gravity to help you and not work against you!  Jessica decided that she wanted to get up into a rocking chair.  I continued to titrate the pitocin to obtain an “adequate” contraction pattern.  Jessica’s body was actually pretty resistant to the pitocin so I ended up eventually getting all the way up to “max pit,” or 20mu/min, around 6:00pm.  Jessica was contracting about every 2 ½ -3 minutes each lasting for about 40-60 seconds.  Jessica complained most about her back pain and so we tried a variety of positions to ease this for her including using the rocking chair, standing at bedside, birthing ball, back rubs, slow dancing etc.  Jason was an excellent birth coach and the two of them really worked well together.  Jessica did not feel comfortable walking in the halls (some women prefer a bit more privacy and I can’t really blame them!) so she did a lot of pacing in the room.  Around 6:45pm, Jessica was getting really tired and asked if she could get back in bed.  We tried a few positions in bed (side lying, kneeling, etc.) but the back pain was too intense. 

 

I wished at that moment we could have gotten her into the Jacuzzi but despite what some other people might tell you, trying to continuously monitor a patient in the Jacuzzi is almost impossible, especially since there are no monitors in the tub room at my hospital so I cannot see or hear what the baby’s heart rate is doing when I am in there manually holding the monitor to her belly so the bubbles don’t knock it off.  This is yet another reason why back door inductions frustrate me.  If she was in true labor and not on pitocin, I could have done intermittent auscultation which is very compatible with using the Jacuzzi.  Some women think they can have it all (for example their induction and the Jacuzzi).  But fact of the matter is that agreeing to an unnecessary induction automatically makes a natural birth plan harder, NOT impossible, but harder. 

 

Turns out the only position that Jessica liked at that time was sitting straight up in bed, leaning forward on the squatting bar, with the foot of the bed lowered so the bed looked like a “chair.”  She was moving and breathing very well in this position with Jason and me as her coaches, and she seemed to start to drift off into “Laborland.”  At 7:00pm Dr. T came into the room and stated he was going to do a vaginal exam to check for progress.  Jessica had started to complain of some intermittent rectal pressure so I had assumed that the baby had moved down some.  Turns out she was 5cm/100% effaced/-1 station!!  “This is great!,” I said to Jessica, “You are doing such a great job!  Not only are you 5cm now but you have thinned all the way out AND you have moved the baby down a lot!!  You are doing so well!!” 

 

Both Jessica and Jason seemed excited about the progress which is great because I was afraid that Dr. T would say something annoying like “Oh bummer, you are only 5 cm.”  But the truth is that in order for your cervix to dilate you have to thin out first and therefore progress in effacement and station are also signs of great progress, not just dilation. “Do you want anything for pain?,” asked Dr. T.  “No, not yet, I want to try to go longer,” she replied.  Jessica spent the next two hours sitting straight up in bed, leaning over the squat bar, with the bed in the “chair” position.  Jason was standing beside her rubbing her lower back while I was helping her to stay focused on her breathing.  She had a couple mini “freak outs” like “I can’t do this anymore!,”  “This is it, I can’t take one more contraction!”  “How much longer is this going to be?!”  What is important to remember is that these “freak outs” are NORMAL and it doesn’t mean you are weak or a wimp.  Far from it!  Labor is one of the most intensely physical experiences of your entire life.  It is comprised of sensations that are unlike any others you have felt before.  And that is why positive encouragement is so important.  I know it is hard to see someone you love in pain but Jessica had said she did not want any pain medication or an epidural at this point so providing her with unconditional support was what was needed.

 

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A quick story…

 

When I used to run cross country in high school we would often have “distance days” were our workout consisted of running a 13-18 mile long run.  We would start right after school and often not get back until it was dusk.  Those runs were grueling especially since we lived in a very hilly town.  I remember thinking or saying things like “I can’t do this anymore!” or “No, just go on without me!”  I remember feeling so many times during those runs like I wanted to “quit” and walk.  But I knew that if I did, it was just going to take me that much longer to get home.  And one of the things that kept me going the most was the support from my teammates.  “Just run until that phone pole” then “just run to that fire hydrant” then “just run to that stop sign.”  I got through it because I took it one small stretch at a time.  When I thought about how much farther I had to go, when I thought about the whole run as a whole, the task at hand seemed overwhelming and insurmountable.  But when I took it “one phone pole at a time” I felt like I could handle it.  There was no other way to get home but to run.  And it hurt.  And the cramps in my sides made it hard to breathe.  And sometimes I would have to lean over into the woods and throw up.  Every bone and muscle ached, from my ears to my toes.  I remember my knees stinging with each footstep.  But there was no other way to get home but to run….  And when I finally crossed onto the track at the high school to run the last stretch I felt like I could do anything.  I did it! 

 

I am not trying to claim that running a long run is exactly like labor.  For one I was only running for a few hours, not hours and hours and hours.  And I knew exactly how much I had left, unlike moms in labor.  And genital pain was not involved at all!  Haha!  But the point is that a great mix of positive encouragement from my teammates, self determination, and the technique of taking it one step at a time was the reason I succeeded.  If my teammates just left me in the dust every time I said “Just go on without me!  I have to walk” then I wouldn’t have been as successful and I wouldn’t have gotten as much out of the run.  So ladies, it’s NORMAL to “freak out” a bit, which is why surrounding yourself with positive, helpful, and supportive coaches (not just “specators”) is so important, ESPECIALLY in a hospital birth.

 

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Jessica labored like this for about two more hours.  She was definitely in Laborland, kinda spacey, like she was in a trance.  At around 9:00pm Jessica said that she was feeling a lot more rectal pressure and wanted an epidural so I went out to the desk to page a resident.  Lucky me Dr. T happened to be sitting at the main desk chatting with another doctor.  I told him that Jessica would like to be checked to see how far along she was because she was considering an epidural.  He came into the room and low and behold, she was 6cm/100% effaced/ 0 station.  Woohoo!  Jessica stated she wanted the epidural so I proceeded to get things set up so that we would be ready when anesthesia came in.  I had already reviewed with her the risks and benefits of an epidural earlier on (when she was more comfortable), so now I just had to explain to her what to expect from the procedure. 

 

After setting up the room I walked out to the desk to see how long it would take anesthesia to see her.  Turns out that anesthesia was tied up in a cesarean section so Jessica would have to wait.  (Unfortunately, even in a hospital that has 24/7 anesthesia like mine, they are not always available for epidurals.  So if this is your only reason for deciding to have your baby at a high-risk hospital, I would make sure you review all of your options.  And if your only labor preparation is deciding you want an epidural, it is imperative that you prepare for the possibility of not getting one!)  When I was at the desk, I checked the orders to make sure Dr. T had written for the epidural.  And that’s when I found his progress note:

 

X/X/XXXX

2115

S: Complains of more pain, wants relief

O: Cervix 6 cm dilated, completely effaced, 0 station

     EFM shows Ctx every 3 min x 60, baseline 140, +accels, Æ decels, moderate variability

A: Active phase labor with unsatisfactory progress

P:  Anesthesia notified for epidural

     Recheck in one hour, if no significant progress, anticipate primary cesarean section for arrest of dilatation

                                                                                              Dr. T

 

 

 

I was floored.  I couldn’t believe he was basically already throwing in the towel for Jessica.  It was her first baby for goodness sakes!  Babies come in their own time!  I mean, she hadn’t even gotten the epidural yet and the pitocin has to be shut off for the epidural so by the time the “hour” was up, it would have been completely unfair to expect her to have made any “progress.”  And what does that mean anyways?  So I called him out on it:

 

Me:  “Dr. T.  You are already throwing in the towel for her!?  Why does the plan even mention a cesarean at this point?!”

 

Dr. T:  “You’re kidding right, she has only changed 2cm in the last 7 hours.”

 

Me:  “Well that’s not really true because I didn’t even get her contractions into an adequate pattern until about 6pm.  And it’s her first baby.”

 

Dr. T:  “Jeeze, you call that progress?!  I can’t be here all night you know…”

 

(YES he really did say that.  This is also the doctor that told me once to tell a multip who was 8cm and feeling pushy to “Not push” because he wanted to finish the ice cream he had just ordered with his wife and kids.  I mean, I’m all for him spending time with his kids but he was ON CALL and this was a third time mom who was feeling RECTAL PRESSURE and was 8 CM!  There is NO telling her “Don’t push!”  It’s called the fetal ejection reflex for goodness sake!  And guess what, not only did he missed the delivery, but he then chewed me and the resident out for it.  I’m not making this up…In fact I can’t make this stuff up!)

 

Me:  (getting pretty upset but trying not to scream at him)  “Are you kidding me!  She wasn’t even in labor when she got here!  If she was, you wouldn’t have started her on pitocin.  She wasn’t even in labor!  You didn’t have to be here at ALL but YOU were the one who sent her in for induction.”

 

Dr. T:  (smirking)  “Induction!  She was 4cm!”

 

Me:  “But she couldn’t feel any of her contractions!  And now you are just going to cut her without at least seeing if the epidural helps?!  This is her first baby!  This delivery has consequences for the rest of her life!”

 

I was afraid I was going to strangle him at this point so I just left the desk to go back into the room.  Anesthesia didn’t show up until 10:30pm and at 11:00 pm Penny, the night nurse, came in to take over.  I stayed until the epidural was finished and tucked her in.  The next day I got the full scoop on what happened from Penny and the patient’s chart.

 

Apparently Jessica got great relief from the epidural and slept like a rock for 2 hours.  Luckily the baby tolerated the epidural well and remained happy on the monitors. Dr. T must have fallen asleep in his call room or gotten distracted because he never came back to check her.  At 1:30am Jessica woke up feeling a lot more rectal pressure.  Penny called the resident to check her and her exam revealed she was fully dilated (HOORAY!!) but that the baby was still at a 0 station.  Since the resident was busy with other patients she agreed, per Penny’s request, to NOT call Dr. T and wake him up but rather to shut off the epidural, allowing it to wear off a bit, and use passive descent to help get the baby down more before they started pushing.  (Although Jessica was feeling more rectal pressure, a practice push revealed that she could not feel her bottom enough to push.  If she had started to push at that time, she would have just tired herself out).  Also, Penny knew that Dr. T was notorious for only “letting” patients push for about an hour (even if they can’t feel their bottom) and then if the baby isn’t out he performs a cesarean for “failure to descent.”  Phooey! 

 

One hour later at 2:30am Jessica was feeling an uncontrollable urge to push and a vaginal exam by the resident revealed that she was 10cm/100%/ +2 station!!  Yay!!  Penny said that she felt it was best not to make Jessica wait for Dr. T to rise and shine so she instructed Penny to push whenever she felt she needed too.  She said that Dr. T didn’t even make it into the room until about 10 min before Jessica pushed out her 8lb, 6oz baby boy at 3:05am after only approximately 30 minutes of pushing!!!!  The baby was also found to be in an occiput posterior position, which explains all that back pain Jessica was experiencing and perhaps the length of her labor as well.  Dr. T did cut an episiotomy but the baby delivered before he could get his hands on a vacuum J.  According to Penny, baby Christopher James nursed like a champ and stayed skin to skin with mom for almost a whole two hours! 

 

Fortunately for all those involved, Jessica and Jason’s story had a wonderful ending!  However, despite the fact that Jessica’s birth did not end in a cesarean section doesn’t mean that there were not many injustices in the way her care was managed by her birth attendant.  Stories like this always get me thinking…what if?  What if Jessica had been sent home from the office instead of sent in for a back door induction?  Would the baby have eventually turned around so that he was no longer occiput posterior?  Would her natural contractions been easier to handle and therefore would she still have opted for the epidural?  If she was not induced with pitocin and therefore not required to be on continuous monitoring, would the freedom to move around more in labor and the ability to use the Jacuzzi tub helped to alleviate her back pain if the baby stayed occiput posterior?  What if she had had a different nurse that encouraged her to get the epidural earlier on?  What if Dr. T had gotten his way and started to make the patient push before she had regained use of her legs and feeling in her bottom?  What if Dr. T had kept her membranes intact until much later in the labor?  What if Dr. T had checked her one hour after she was found to be 6cm and she hadn’t made “satisfactory progress”….would she have been given a cesarean for “failure to progress?” 

 

In summary, I would just like to say that unlike what many OBGYNs, nurses, friends, family members, moms, journalists, etc will tell you, the journey matters just as much as the outcome.  The fact is that women truly amaze me no matter how they give birth.  Whether it is a natural home birth or a scheduled cesarean section, the bottom line is that women have superpowers!  They can grow people inside of them after all!!  And my greatest wish is that all women will feel in control of the decisions regarding their birth and in the end feel empowered no matter the mode of delivery.  But as a society we have to be more conscious of how our overly medicalized maternity care system affects the thoughts, feelings, and emotions of our patients and families as well as their outcomes.

 

Don’t Let This Happen To You #24 PART 1 of 2: Jessica & Jason’s Back Door Induction April 13, 2009

Continuation of 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!”  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!  If haven’t already read it, I invite you to check out the first addition to the countdown: DLTHTY #25: Sarah & John’s Unnecessary Induction

 

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There are so many things about the current state of maternity care in the United States that frustrate, infuriate, sadden, and annoy me but one particular thing that really gets my goat is the back door induction.  As you might have already read, I am a labor & delivery nurse in a large urban hospital and we are BUSY!  Although I know there are hospitals that way more deliveries a year than we do, for the capacity of our hospital, 4500 deliveries a year is almost more than we can handle with our current facility and staffing.  (By the way, 4500 deliveries a year breaks down to about 375 deliveries a month and about 12 deliveries a DAY!  (Jeeze, I am exhausted just looking at the statistics!) 

 

One way to help organize all the chaos is to have an induction book in which doctors have to schedule all of their inductions at least 24 hours in advance.  This way we have somewhat of an idea about appropriate staffing and room assignment for our patients for each day (in theory).  (The exception to this rule is the induction in which there is a documented medical reason related to either mom or baby’s health that requires an urgent delivery of the baby.  For example, severe intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) with a non-reassuring nonstress test (NST) and biophysical profile (BPP) or worsening preeclampsia.  We obviously don’t make these mom’s sign up for a spot.  They are usually a direct admit from the office to the hospital.) 

 

However, when a doctor is either lazy, anxious, rushed, or overall feels he is above the rules, he (or she) will send a patient in from the office as a direct admit to the hospital for labor when she actually is NOT in labor and will the proceed to INDUCE her under the guise of augmentation.  When providers do this, it increases the amount and acuity of our patient census and puts an unnecessary strain on our staffing which compromises the amount of individualized care we can give to our patients.  What these doctors don’t tell you is that inductions can take up to three days to complete!  If you are truly in spontaneous natural labor, even a slow labor, you won’t be in the hospital for 3 days.  Inductions take MORE time, MORE money, MORE staff, MORE resources and hence are MORE risky.  Let’s digress for a moment so that I may clarify the difference between induction and augmentation:

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Labor: Regular, noticeable, and painful contractions of the uterus that result in dilation (opening) and effacement (thinning) of the cervix.  Therefore if you are having regular uterine contractions that are noticeable or even painful but are not making any change to your cervix, it is NOT labor.  Likewise if your cervix is dilated and effaced but you are NOT having uterine contractions that are noticeable and painful then you are NOT in labor.  (Note: I have had low intervention doctors and midwives send multips (a woman who has given birth at least once) home at 4 or 5 cm if they are not having any contractions or not changing their cervix.  One particular patient I can remember was a G5P4 and was 5cm dilated when she came to the hospital.  We kept her for 4 hours but she never changed her cervix…she couldn’t even feel her irregular contractions and she was comfortable.  So she was sent home.  Two weeks later she came back 8cm dilated in hard labor and I assisted with her very quick birth.  She did amazing and the baby was happy and healthy!  Clearly, even at 5cm, she wasn’t in labor.)

 

Induction: the use of medications or other methods to start (induce) labor before the woman’s body has spontaneously begun true labor on its own.

 

Augmentation: stimulating the uterus with medications or other methods during labor that has already begun naturally to increase the frequency, duration and strength of contractions, the goal of which is to establish a pattern where there are three to five contractions in 10 minutes, each lasting more than 40 seconds. 

 

So just to be clear (and to adequately set up my story) if a woman is 4cm dilated but is not having regular, noticeable, and painful contractions that are causing cervical change she is NOT in labor.  If said woman is sent into the hospital and any interventions to stimulate contractions are started, then it is by definition considered an induction NOT an augmentation.  And if said patient was not scheduled to be admitted on such day, then it is considered a backdoor induction.   

 

Let’s continue with the story…

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It was a Friday morning before my weekend off and I came in to work at 11am as usual.  I was looking forward to the weekend since it had been a really busy week and I was exhausted.  For the first four hours of my shift, I triaged a few patients but ended up sending them all home for one reason or another.  As I was finishing up some paperwork at the desk around 1:00pm, Dr. T came off the elevator and over to the nurses station.  I overheard him telling the charge nurse that he was just at his office and was sending over a primip (a woman who has never given birth) for us to admit for labor who was 4cm dilated/50% effaced/-3 station by his exam in the office.  He then slinked towards one of our second year residents who, in my opinion, will definitely be joining the ranks of the aggressive labor management elite, and uttered, “I’m sending over a patient from the office, 4cm.  Could you break her water when she gets here and start her on pit.  I know you’re the only one who will do it.  The baby is still high.”

 

Situations like this one are exactly the reason why I shouldn’t eavesdrop!  The reason why Dr. T was concerned that “no one else” would break her water was that when a baby is at a minus 3 station and is “too high,” if the membranes are ruptured artificially the umbilical cord could slip down before the baby’s head, getting pinched between the baby’s head and the cervix, cutting off all blood flow from the placenta to the baby.  This is called a cord prolapse and it is a surgical emergency requiring an emergency cesarean section.  This emergency is very unlikely if your water breaks naturally at term during labor because typically when it happens naturally the baby’s head is well applied to the cervix which puts pressure on the bag causing it to break.  I wanted to turn around and shout at Dr. T, “If you are so concerned “no one else” will take the chance, why won’t you do it yourself?!  Is it really so wise if it is so unsafe?”  Furthermore, the thought of sending over a patient for “labor” and then immediately starting her on pitocin and breaking her water makes my head feel like its going to explode!  If she is really in labor then she does NOT NEED pitocin!  And if she “needs” pitocin, then she is NOT in labor!  This is a BACK DOOR INDUCTION and ladies, it happens all the time.  Think about it, it was a Friday and Dr. T happened to be on call that weekend.  Looks like he didn’t want to get a page over Sunday brunch that one of his patients was in labor!  AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! 

 

Sorry, I lost it there for a minute J.  But it is just these kinds of injustices that make my blood boil!  Let’s continue…

 

Come change of shift at 3pm I was patient-less since I had sent all my triages home and hence was assigned to the patient in room 9.  And guess whose patient it was!  None other than Dr. T’s “labor” patient!  Oh brother!  This was going to be an interesting night! 

 

From report I got most of the details:  Jessica was a 25 year old first time mom (G2P0) just a few days past her “due” date (40 weeks and 3 days).  Here health history was unexceptional: exercise induced asthma as a child that did not require any medications, tonsillectomy at age 7, and one miscarriage at 5 weeks two years ago.  Her pregnancy was normal, healthy, and uncomplicated.  The patient had arrived to the hospital at 1:30pm with her longtime boyfriend Jason.  Jessica’s day shift nurse had completely admitted her and started her on pitocin but because the floor was crazy busy all day, she had only gotten the pitocin up to 4mu/min and the residents had only gotten the chance to write orders and not to rupture her membranes.  (My thought = Yes!!)  [Note: For a description of how pitocin is administered check out: Don’t Let This Happen To You #25 PART 2: Sarah & John’s Unnecessary Induction].

 

Next I went into the room to meet Jessica and Jason.  Jessica was a bubbly young woman with big rosy cheeks.  Her boyfriend Jason was living proof that you can’t judge a book by its cover.  He was super funny and down to earth and very supportive of Jessica in every way, yet a bit intimidating at first because he was almost completely covered in tattoos and had multiple facial piercings J.  They looked like total opposites and yet were so perfect for each other.  We chit-chatted for awhile and really seemed to hit it off since we all had the same sense of humor.  I took the opportunity to satisfy my curiosity about how Jessica had ended up in the hospital since she seemed very comfortable the whole time we were talking.  The monitor strip revealed that she was having contractions about every 6-8 minutes but she was not even flinching as I saw them come and go on the monitor.  To gain a bit more information I started to ask some questions.  I kept the conversation light in tone, like “So tell me about your day today?” instead of “Why the heck are you here!  Run!  Run away!!”  J  Here’s our conversation:

 

Me: “So how did you end up at the office today?  Did you have a scheduled appointment or were you having contractions?

 

Jessica: “No I was feeling great!  I had a scheduled appointment and when they put me on the monitor for a non-stress test, the nurses told me that I was having contractions!  It was so crazy because I didn’t even know I was having them!  So then Dr. T decided to check me since I was contracting and I was 4 centimeters!”

 

Me: “Can you feel any of your contractions now?”

 

Jessica:  “I think so, well, am I having one now?  Wait, no, maybe now?  (Looks towards monitor) Yeah, I am having one now.

 

At this point I’m thinking: If you have to look at the monitor then the answer is no, no you are not feeling contractions!  Sometimes I turn the monitor screen off so the patients or family members can’t “contraction watch.”  J

 

Me: “So what happened next?  Did Dr. T tell you to come right over or did he say you could go home first?”

 

Jessica:  “He said we could go home first and get our stuff together but not to “dilly dally” because they were waiting for us here.  So we rushed home and grabbed our bags.  Good thing we packed last week!”

 

Me:  “Yeah, it’s great you were prepared.  What did Dr. T tell you the plan was for when you got here?”

 

Jessica: “He said that once we got here that he would break my water but they haven’t done that yet.  I guess it’s really busy today, huh?”

 

Me:  “Yeah, It’s a busy day.  Did he say anything about starting you on pitocin?”

 

Jessica:  “He mentioned that I might ‘need a little pitocin’ because my contractions weren’t in a regular pattern and were pretty far apart.”

 

Me:  “I bet it was a big surprise to you to be induced today, huh!”  (I couldn’t help myself!)

 

Jessica:  (confused)  “Well I didn’t expect to find out I was in labor today  that’s for sure!”

 

Me: “Do you guys have a written birth plan or any thing I should know about regarding your labor and birth preferences?”

 

Jessica:  “No nothing written.  Well, I wanted to try to go as natural as possible.  I don’t want any narcotics and I don’t think I want an epidural.  I mean, I’m not ruling it out, but I really want to go as naturally as possible……………I mean, I guess that’s not totally going to happen now because I am on pitocin but, well, you know…”

 

(Yes!  The “in” I’ve been waiting for! Sometimes I wish I could tape patients and then play back what they say to me to see if once they hear it back, they then realize how illogical their doctor is.  I mean sometimes I feel like a mom who has to sneak spinach into her kids’ favorite foods to trick them into eating vegetables.  I can never just come out and say my intentions, I have to play this “game” and hope they figure it out themselves.  This is something of a daily internal struggle for me.)

 

Me:  “Well that is not necessarily true because although we are limited by the fact that with the pitocin running I have to have you on the monitors, as long as I can trace the baby’s heartbeat I can help you into any position that makes you most comfortable.  Unfortunately pitocin is not a good as the “real” thing you know? What I mean is it makes contractions artificially stronger and longer than natural contractions.  But I will do my best to titrate the pitocin so that we get an effective labor pattern that both you and the baby can tolerate well.  We can all work as a team, sound good? J

 

Jessica & Jason: “Yeah sounds good!”

 

I’m sure, my savvy reader, you have already recognized why I started this post with the difference between induction and augmentation!!  The TRUTH is: If you are at term and someone has to “tell” you that you are “in labor” then you are NOT in labor!  I just feel so badly for these women!  I truly don’t think it is their fault!  I think that they put all their trust in their birth attendant and most of the time are just naïve and don’t know any better.  And I don’t say that to be patronizing, I say it out of love and concern.  And as I mentioned in the first post of this series, I don’t want to start off my first interaction with these patients by going off on a tangent about unnecessary induction because I don’t want to make them defensive, doubtful, untrusting, or upset because these emotions do not facilitate labor!

 

*Sigh* 

 

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Up For Next Time: Don’t Let This Happen To You #24: PART 2 of 2 

 

Read about Jessica’s labor, the birth of her baby, and Dr. T’s upsetting prediction about her birth too early in the game.

 

 

(Research for this post was aided by my trusty OB textbook from nursing school:  Maternal-Child Nursing (Second Edition) by Emily McKinney, Susan James, & Sharon Murray Ó2005)