7 Surprising Things That Can Happen During Labor
Most of us go into labor feeling pretty prepared these days.
From countless articles, childbirth classes, and the ever-popular mother-to-mother advice, it can feel like you've covered everything that could possibly happen during labor on your carefully thought-out birth plan (whether on paper or just in your head).
But just to be safe, allow me to look back over my years as a labor and delivery nurse and give you a sneak peek into some of the potentially surprising circumstances that can arise during labor.
A drug screen
Not exactly the picture-perfect entrance into motherhood you were picturing, huh? But drug screens are often routine in maternity wards upon admission. Check with your nurse if you have any questions about undergoing the drug screen and make sure they ask for your permission to do one.
A mandatory shower
While policies vary, of course, some hospitals require a mandatory shower with antibacterial soap before labor or even a c-section. The antibacterial soap just helps make sure everything is as clean as possible, and trust me when I say that it's not a far stretch to assume that not everyone showers on a regular basis. If you've just hopped in the shower before coming to the hospital, don't be afraid to let your nurse know you will be skipping the antibacterial bath. No harsh feelings, I promise.
A quick dip
Not in the pool for you, but rather a quick dip in your baby's heart rate may send your nurse running into your room. When you are being monitored, a central monitor displays your baby's heart rate and your contraction pattern so your nurse can keep an eye on your activity, no matter where he or she may be. So if you suddenly have a nurse burst into your room, fear not–it's probably just an issue with your baby's heart rate. And the majority of the time, all it takes is a quick turn in the bed for you and a little boost of fluids in your IV to get everything looking good again.
A bedpan encounter
If you choose an epidural for your pain management, or if you have a high-risk complication during your labor, like high blood pressure, you might not be able to safely use the restroom out of bed. Instead, your nurse will empty your bladder using a catheter (a small tube that is inserted manually) or she might be willing to let you try the bedpan. Speaking from personal experience, I will say the bed pan is extremely hard to use effectively, but I have seen some moms–even with very good epidurals–use them and swear by them. Don't be afraid to give it a go! (No pun intended …)
An oil bath
Yup, you read that right. If your care provider is a midwife, she may just be fond of the old-fashioned remedy of using some warm olive oil to soften your perineum and prepare it for birth. My midwife lugged an old crockpot in to my room before birth, plugged it in, and I prepared for a somewhat surprising perineal massage. Not awkward at all at that point in labor, actually …
So you reach 10 centimeters dilated and you immediately start pushing, right? Um, not so much. Unlike the movies, pushing doesn't always work that way. It may take some time for your baby to “labor down” and reach the point in your birth canal when you feel the urge to push. Your nurse will probably inform you that you will wait for the feeling to push, and it could be hours after you are fully dilated before you actually start pushing.
Your contractions may look bigger than they are
During labor, most women are hooked up to an external fetal monitor (the one that straps on your belly), and while it measures that contractions are happening, it can't measure the true intensity of a contraction, because the true intensity is the pressure occurring inside the uterus. So your contractions may look huge on the monitor but not be affecting you as much. And conversely, your contractions may look measly on the monitor but be blowing you away in real life. Bottom line–don't put all your faith in those monitors! Only you know your pain threshold during labor.
Did anything that happened during your labor come as a surprise to you?