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Advice from labor-and-delivery nurses that you may not get from your doctor

Your labor-and-delivery nurse will be the person who assists you through one of life’s peak events. (Most OB-GYNs show up just for the birth.) Here, a few nurses share some helpful hints for getting through those intense, crucial hours of labor.

>>> Come later to get a good room

When you feel those first pangs of labor, don’t rush to the hospital; call your doctor instead. “No one rests well in a hospital,” says Barbara Dubler, R.N., clinical nurse manager of Obstetrics, Newborn and Reproductive Health at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. “Your best chance to get the type of room you want is to arrive in the late afternoon or early evening,” she adds.

>>> Come bearing food

Labor-and-delivery nurses appreciate friendly gestures. “Come bearing food, like a basket of muffins, and those nurses will love you,” says Beth Kelly, R.N., of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

>>> Don’t feel like a failure if you want drugs

If your birth plan goes out the window, try not to feel bad. “I had a patient who refused an IV or pain medications on paper, but once her labor got active, she became dehydrated and really needed an IV,” says Michelle Wallace, R.N., of Kaweaah Delta District Hospital in Visalia, Calif. “By the time she reached 4 centimeters, she was saying, ‘Forget the birth plan — this hurts!’ Meanwhile, her husband wanted to stick to the plan.

“I always side with the mother if she wants an epidural in the heat of the moment,” Wallace adds. “She’s the one enduring the pain.”

>>> Don’t be embarrassed about poop

“Some women are so terrified of pooping during labor that they hold back and won’t push,” says Kelly. “But if you push like you do when you go to the bathroom, you’re doing it the right way.” Nurses and doctors are not at all fazed by bowel movements during labor, she assures, and nurses are conscientious about cleaning it up quickly and discreetly.

>>> Realize that it’s OK to cry

A good cry can offer a healthy release. “Recently I assisted a couple who very much wanted an unmedicated birth,” says Sarah Krauskopf, R.N., a doula in Louisville, Ky. “After 20 hours of labor, the mother was worn out. She broke down and cried. Her husband and I just held her and let her cry it out. I ended up giving her a small dose of narcotic, and she delivered a nearly 10-pound child with no other medication.” Just let your emotions take over for a while and then move through it, Krauskopf says.

>>> Go ahead and scream

If you feel the need to scream, do it. Obstetrical staff members have heard it all. Kelly notes that women often scream at their husbands, “It’s all your fault!” and “I’ll never do this again!” She adds, “I just laugh and say, ‘Yeah, I’ll see you back here in a year-and-a-half.’”