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5.14.07: Why ask a labor nurse?


I get dozens of calls and emails a year from friends, family, friends-of-friends, asking questions about pregnancy, labor, birth, epidurals, breastfeeding, what-to-do-with-a-terrible-two, and an endless array of worries and concerns. Everybody needs a labor nurse friend to help sort these things out. Some questions are silly (we'll attribute those to placenta-brain) but most are very common. Here are a few for starters:

Q: My baby was sucking his thumb during the ultrasound. What can I do to get him to stop?

A: Uh, nothing? Babies have a very primal, ingrained need to suck—that's how they survive after birth. If a baby needs to suck, that need has to be satisfied. Be grateful for that sucking instinct. That's what will help you become an excellent breastfeeding team. Once he's born, we can deal with "what to do with that sucking instinct" that won't obliterate your nipples.

Q: I'm 30 weeks pregnant with my first baby and have an ache across my lower belly that won't go away. What is that? What should I do?

A: First things first. Have you talked to your doctor/midwife about it? No? Call him now. This could be a lot of things, most of them normal. The few things that aren't normal require medical attention. Let's not confuse this blog with a trip to the doctor's office. That's where your medical concerns belong.

OK, now that you've called the midwife and are in the car getting this checked out, what might she be looking for? Bladder infection, preterm contractions (not always labor-related), round ligament pain, constipation, ovarian cyst, appendicitis. Any of these are possibilities. One of the most common causes of pain is bladder infection. You'll pee in a cup at your doctor's office or the hospital maternity unit. The nurse will either dip a test-strip in it or send it off to the lab to see if there's white blood cells and bacteria in your urine. Yes? Antibiotics will clear it up. No? They'll culture it in the lab for a few days, just to be sure nothing grows. You might get some fetal heart monitoring. That's when we check the baby's heart patterns and look for contractions. No contractions? It might be the round ligament—the one that holds your uterus in place. As the baby gets bigger (and they start to put on significant weight at 30 weeks), the round ligament might get tugged. It hurts. A lot like pulling a tendon in your heel. It usually heals on it's own within a few days. We get patients at the hospital every week (every day?) with "pain." Most get sent home with our best recommendations for rest and sometimes Tylenol. Those that are more serious are treated accordingly.

That's what this blog is about. You submit questions and I'll give you all the benefit of my years of wisdom and experience as a labor nurse and (all-too-experienced mom) with witty insightful answers. You'll probably get some of my opinions too along the way. I have lots of experience with almost every imaginable birthing scenario so my opinions are varied. Do I think you should get an epidural? Absolutely, if you want one. Do I think you should go all-natural? Yes, you bet. If that's what works for you. How about a doula? Can you afford it? Yes? Is she going to displace your partner or confuse your medical care? No? Well then, get one. Can't afford one and your partner wants to be your labor coach—don't get one but take some prenatal education classes. Should every mother breastfeed? No way. There are some women who aren't cut out for it or just plain don't want to. I'm all about "breast is best" but sometimes it isn't: Some breast surgeries, medications, illnesses and life experiences make it a bad idea. Most women can breastfeed successfully and we're really fortunate there's so much lactation help out there.

Don't expect me to give you medical advice though. I'm not the doctor/midwife. I'm the nurse-friend. My best advice is this: Get good prenatal care. Take really good care of yourself and your baby right from the start. Eat really well and exercise. And oh yeah, did I already mention: Get good prenatal care!

So, bring it on ladies: Ask a labor nurse, anything.

Got a question for Jeanne? E-mail it to labornurse@fitpregnancy.com and it may be answered in a future blog post.

This Fit Pregnancy blog is intended for educational purposes only. It is not intended to replace medical advice from your physician. Before initiating any exercise program, diet or treatment provided by Fit Pregnancy, you should seek medical advice from your primary caregiver.