Molli Moen is a Registered Nurse in the Obstetrics (Birthing) department at Upland Hills Health. She has been a nurse at UHH since 2014.
Becoming a new mom is an exciting adventure filled with things such as feeling baby move, picking a name, and preparing a nursery. But there are so many unexpected endeavors that take place during pregnancy, labor, delivery, and postpartum that many moms tend to not to think about. I’m here to help introduce, or maybe refresh a “multip’s” memory of these likely events or occurrences.
Labor signs and symptoms:
• Mucus Plugs 101–Many pregnant mommas have heard of mucus plugs, but there seems to be a big misconception of what a mucus plug is and what it means. A mucus plug develops with pregnancy to block the opening of the cervix and helps prevent bacteria from entering the uterus. Many women experience “losing their mucus plug” in the last few weeks of pregnancy. Passing a mucus plug is a sign that your body is getting ready for delivery, but it doesn’t mean that labor is imminent. It could be hours, days, or even weeks away.
• “Did my water just break?”–When your “water breaks,” it means that the baby’s amniotic sac has ruptured and labor is approaching (if not already in progress). But many mommas wonder, “What does it feel like? Is there a pop? Is it a big gush or a slow leak?” The truth is, it can be any or all of the above. Some moms feel a popping sensation or even hear an audible “pop.” Others have “a large gush that just keeps coming.” And many moms experience a trickle or slow leak, which causes them to question “is it really my water?” or “Maybe I just peed my pants.” In L&D triage, we evaluate women at all times of the day who question if their bag of waters has ruptured. Many times it truly is just urine leaking and not amniotic fluid. Rule of thumb, urine is controllable; once your water has broken and it starts leaking, you can’t stop it. Also, pregnancy hormones cause your body to produce more vaginal discharge, which may sometimes be confused with rupture of membranes. But if there’s any question that your water has broken, I recommending calling our birthing unit for further evaluation.
• Labor has begun, now how long until baby is out? –We’ve all heard birth stories from countless women in our lives about how labor was so quick for them, “they barely made it to the hospital” or I was in labor for DAYS. This is true, labor is different for every woman. To explain the birth process better, there are three stages that occur. The first stage has to do with dilation. The cervix has to completely open or dilate to 10 cm, approximately the size of a bagel! The goal for active labor is generally to change a cervix 1 cm per hour. After the first stage of labor, you enter the second stage or the stage of descent and pushing. This can take anywhere from a few pushes to up to 3 hours of pushing, especially for a first time mom. Once baby is born, you will deliver the placenta, the third stage of childbirth.
After baby comes…
• It Still Hurts.–Once baby is delivered, many moms believe the pains are over. Labor pains are done, but postpartum pains have just begun. After baby, your placenta is delivered and then your delivery nurse becomes a “terribly mean nurse” and performs fundal massages, which are done frequently during the recovery period. Fundal or uterine massage is when your nurse pushes on your abdomen, locates your stretched out uterus, and massages it to ensure the uterus is contracting down to control postpartum bleeding.
Moms may also experience perineal discomforts after deliver. Perineal tears or lacerations are common with childbirth and generally take 1-2 weeks to heal. If you experience postpartum perineal discomfort or swelling, your postpartum nurse will offer you a peri bottle, Ibuprofen, Tylenol, ice, topical numbing spray, numbing ointment, and tucks. As a postpartum nurse and mother, I strongly recommend using these interventions, especially the ICE!
• Privacy Doesn’t End at Delivery–Any mom that has had a baby will tell you privacy goes out the window during childbirth. This statement is very true. We as labor and delivery nurses try to provide you with as much privacy as possible, but we also need to be able to monitor baby accurately, assess labor progression, and assist you with delivery. After delivery, your labor and delivery nurses will frequently be assessing postpartum bleeding, perineal lacerations and/or swelling, and assisting with breast care and breastfeeding, if you choose to do so. We will assist you to the bathroom for the first time, help you with peri care, and even clean your bottom if necessary. As labor and delivery nurses, this is our job. We love it, we are passionate about it and we are here to help in any way possible!