When you're a first-time pregnant mom, the idea of delivering and having a baby can cause a whirlwind of emotions all wrapped up in one. You're likely excited and scared at this new journey before you.
I sat down with my sister, Shannon, who is a nurse at an Omaha hospital, to get her perspective on all things labor, delivery and postpartum. Here are her tips for moms-to-be.
1. Pack light. You really won’t need much in that hospital bag. Most women really want loose fitting clothes, slippers, an outfit for baby's photos, lotion, Chapstick and a favorite snack.
2. Come with ideas rather than a plan. An idea of what you would like during labor and delivery is a good thing. Communicate these desires to your nurse and significant other, but also realize your labor may not go as planned. If your life or your baby’s life is at risk, the plan goes out the window.
3. Be honest when the nurse asks you questions. It’s important to be honest when your nurse asks you questions about medical history, pain management, symptoms, concerns — anything. Nurses should take a little extra time to connect with you in positive ways and build trust.
4. Requesting a nurse. Some people think they need to request a nurse who had a similar birth experience to the one they are hoping to have. This isn’t necessary. All nurses are trained to handle all types of births; and no two births are exactly alike. Now, if you really are not getting along with your nurse, you can of course politely ask for a new one.
5. Ask your nurse for advice. Ask your nurse for ideas to help get through labor and delivery. They’ve seen so many people in so many situations that they are a great resource. Labor and delivery nurses are there to help with your medical needs, as well as to offer support.
6. Let the nurse be your advocate. Your nurse is your advocate. It’s part of their job. Tell the nurse your needs. If you feel overwhelmed or don’t want people in your delivery room, let your nurse be the “bad guy.” You, as the patient, take priority.
7. Don’t feel bad asking for things. If there is something you’d like — water, sprite, pain medicine, a pillow or anything else — don’t feel bad about asking. They don’t mind.
8. Don’t feel embarrassed about changing your mind. Often, women will come in with a plan and something unexpected will happen. Maybe you thought you didn’t want an epidural but now you do. Don’t feel embarrassed about changing your mind. Nurses understand.
9. Nurses typically work 12-hour shifts. Depending on the length of your labor and delivery, you’ll more than likely have multiple nurses. If you’re nervous about the transition, communicate that. Your nurse should introduce your incoming nurse before they leave. Hopefully this will alleviate your nerves.
10. Speak up if you have questions. Always ask your questions. Most nurses enjoy helping and educating. If you don’t know what’s going on or your doctor hasn’t explained something, don’t be afraid to ask your nurse.
11. All women labor differently. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all when it comes to labor and delivery. Every birth is different — even labor and delivery for the same woman will be different from child to child.
12. The birth of your child will probably take longer than you expect. On average, active labor lasts eight hours, but some labors take must longer — especially if it’s your first child. Your water may not break and your contractions might not be strong enough; there are lots of factors that can change the length of labor.
13. There is no point in being modest. First, nurses have seen it all. Second, there are going to be people in and out of your room rotating you, lifting your legs and checking you every hour; at some point modesty will go out the window and you probably won’t care who sees what.
14. Don’t feel bad for sending the baby to the nursery to sleep. Nurses understand you are exhausted and need to rest. You can ask your nurse to bring your baby back to you every couple hours to eat and bond and still get some rest. Soon, you won’t have a nurse to help you at night.
15. Don’t stand up after labor without help. Your blood pressure could be low and you might fall down.
16. Ice packs and mesh underwear are your friend. Most likely, the nurse will give you an ice pack if you have a vaginal birth. Ask for a fresh one each time you change pads. Take the extras home.
17. Ask for postpartum help. You may be afraid to use the call button to ask your nurse questions, but don't be.
18. Take your pain medicine when it’s due. Stay on top of your pain and don’t wait until it’s out of hand. Also, if the nurse brings you a stool softener, take it. You will also be sore for weeks afterward.
19. Ask questions before you are discharged. If you are still unsure of anything, ask your nurse before you leave the hospital.
20. Finally, say thank you. Be kind to your nurse. They are there to help you, be your advocate and do the things that need to be done. They are there to make sure you and baby are healthy. Being kind to your nurse is always appreciated.
Shea Saladee lives in Papillion with her husband, Brent, and their three children. She works as an instructor at the University of Nebraska Omaha.