Do any of us ever imagine what it will be like to go into the labor room? How many of us even go as far as to find out the dos and don’ts of labor? For most women, the last month of pregnancy is the time they shop for the tiny baby shoes and socks and the adorable jumpsuits. After shopping for jumpsuits, the long arduous task of selecting a hospital begins. The referral list starts with how good their food is, how comfortable their labor wards are and whether one will share a room or not. The choice of hospital for most is based on where their regular GP practices, as well as the hospital’s proximity to their home.
After this search, the woman sits and starts packing her bags, waiting for delivery day. During these preparations, most women never ask about the rules in place in the hospital, thinking they will be allowed to do as they please, after all, my baby my choice, right? Wrong. If a woman chooses to have a baby in a hospital, she has to follow the rules in that hospital. Your desires notwithstanding, the doctors dictate what happens most of the time and hospital’s policies take precedence. Here are 10 surprising rules most pregnant women do not know about.
10. Say No to Fetal Monitoring
Most women think they will traipse into the hospital in their cute pajamas, prop up on the bed and chat with friends and when the pain bites, get off the bed and walk around or squat at will. This is far from the reality. When one gets the hospital, the first thing that is strapped on is an IV drip to help in case of an emergency and medicine needs to be administered. Then comes the fetal monitoring equipment, which according to the Baby Center, is used to monitor the baby’s heart rate and see how well the baby is able to cope with the mother’s contractions.
Women may think that this is a cool thing, especially when they get to listen to their babies heartbeat. But wait until all the nurses start panicking and prepping her for surgery because the babies heart rate seems to be slowing down. The hospital business is big business. The problem is, natural births do not rake in as much as surgeries do. Medics have been known to abuse the fetal monitors by putting fear into the new mother by making a blip on the monitor appear larger than it is. There seems to be a correlation between the use of fetal monitors and the number of C-sections performed in most hospitals. Unfortunately, in order to decline the use of a fetal monitor, a woman has to sign a disclaimer relieving the hospitals of any responsibility in case of any untoward eventuality. This declaration scares the new mother into accepting it.
9. You May Not Be Allowed to Eat
When one is pregnant, the cravings and the hunger is unimaginable. Doctors tend to think all pregnant women make wise decisions when it comes to what they put into their bodies, but the truth is, more often than not, women follow their cravings. The hardest thing is trying to separate a woman and her food. The greatest surprise the women will get when they get to the hospital is hearing they cannot give in to their cravings. That box of chocolates a woman has hidden in her baby bag goes uneaten and if she thinks she will at least be offered dinner during her labor, she should think again. Gulping down that greasy hamburger may lead to some serious bouts of vomiting.
Doctors give instructions that a laboring woman should not be given food, this is because they appreciate the complexity of labor and a seemingly risk-free labor may turn risky in a heartbeat. Doctors are always afraid that if a woman eats 0r drinks while in labor, it may lead to aspiration and in case she coughs while undergoing a C-section, she may choke on bits of food she ate earlier. Not eating leaves the woman ready in case of any eventuality. This practice is changing, but not in all hospitals. So, if a woman thinks that this is all in the past, chances are she may get the shock of her life if she finds the practice alive and well in her hospital of choice.
8. Baby Has to Be Born On Solid Ground
Health facilities do not allow a woman to have a water birth: period. The minute the woman decides to have her child in the hospital, her fate is sealed. Doctors tend to have a very rigid outlook on labor and delivery and one of their rules is that they do not offer alternative methods of labor, which mean no water births. If a woman wants to have her baby in the hospital, the baby has to be born on solid ground. There are alternatives to this though. Women can opt to have a home birth, which comes with flexibility in rules as she gets to dictate what she wants or opt for a birth center where she will get the comforts of home while being away from her home.
In both these situations, the woman can decide to have a water birth. Of course, with the help of a registered practitioner like a midwife, nurse or doula. While water births have been proven to help in soothing the mother due to the calming effect of the warm water, doctors still maintain that a woman should labor on a hospital bed as long as she is in the hospital. This, of course, is advised by the fact that most doctors are afraid of what could go wrong in the water and prefer to be in a situation where they can quickly take control.
7. No Epidural Until the Pain Hits
When a woman is thinking of labor, during those instances when she is in a panic, her GP and family members reassure her that in case of pain she has the option of taking an epidural. Unfortunately, the dream of a pain-free labor is just that, a dream. Before a woman can get an epidural, most doctors insist that the woman has to be at least 10 centimeters dilated. For the new mothers, this may seem like something easily attainable, but the pregnant woman will be shocked to know that before they can attain 10 centimeters dilation it can take up to three hours of intense pain.
The woman will scream for an epidural, but no doctor will give it until she labors just a bit longer. The reason is that giving an epidural too early may interfere with the contractions, as well as delaying the progression of labor. After the epidural though, the woman gets to sit back and relax a little bit. Epidurals do come with side effects in later years and as much as most people opt for them, natural labor can be managed with just mild medications and other birthing methods to ease the process, if only the hospitals would loosen some of their policies.
6. Daddy Can’t Catch the Baby
Some partners are squirmish and while they love their wives and are supportive throughout the pregnancy, they prefer to keep a wide berth from the labor room. Then, of course, there is the adventurous type. Those who have no issues being in the labor room. While most women yearn to have their partners in the labor room, the experience can be so traumatic to some. For some, the relationship is never the same again. For those who do make it into the labor room, doctors do allow the man to assist in the birth by helping to rub the wife on the back or help her in her breathing exercises, but that is as far as the help goes. No doctor will allow the partner to catch the baby as he is born.
This denial stems from the fact that hospitals are afraid of any potential lawsuits that may come up in case the partner accidentally drops the newborn. Newborns come out quite slippery and if someone is squeamish, catching the child may wind up being disastrous. The only place a partner is allowed to have this rare privilege is if the woman chooses to have her baby in a birth center or have a home birth.
5. Cord Has to be Clamped Immediately
We have all read about the new benefit of delayed cord clamping, which supposedly helps the newborn get as much as 1/3 of is blood level transferred from the placenta to his body. Delaying the clamping for as little as five minutes is supposedly enough to transfer this benefit to the infant. According to Metro.co.uk, around 40 percent of newborn babies have their cords cut too early, thus depriving them of this huge benefit which could in later years aid in alleviating the chance of the child getting anemia.
The benefits of delayed cord clamping cannot be gainsaid, but unfortunately, unless the new mother is assertive enough, she may find that her desire to have the cord clamped after it had stopped pulsing is denied. This is because most doctors are on a clock and what they want to do is deliver the baby and take all its vitals and move on to the next person. In other instances, the doctors want to be able to get time to take care of the mother because the risk of postpartum hemorrhage is usually very real, especially in the case of a virginal birth. There is also the fact that some women get perineal tearing and may require stitching before the anesthesia wears off.
4. A Lot Of People Will Be Staring Between Your Legs – In Full Lights
There is an old joke that only those who have never gone through the labor ward are shy. The minute you go into labor, the number of people who will be touching and staring at your business is huge. The number of times a nurse will come in to see how far you are dilated are traumatizing, not to mention the doctors staring between your legs to see if the baby is crowning well. The funny thing is when the time to have a baby comes and in the throes of labor, modesty goes right out the window and a woman forgets what shyness is.
Thinking back, one is left in awe at how straight-faced she was in the wake of all those faces staring at her nether-regions. It is made worse by the fact that even if you are the kind that can never go to the beach without a kimono draped over your swimming costume and can never undress in front of people or in the glare of light, the labor ward is always in full light, bright light. Doctors believe in overhead lights, probably to save them from the need to use a torch to see where the baby is coming through.
3. You Have to Labor On Your Back
When the labor pains hit a woman, she is rushed to the hospital or in some cases she drives herself to the hospital. The minute a woman is received into the labor ward, an IV drip is put in her arm. This is a basic procedure for most hospitals. The reason this happens is that hospitals want to be ready in case of any eventuality. With the IV in place, all they would have to do is administer medicine. After this comes the fetal monitor, which is not your choice, but rather it is another hospital policy. Then you are free to labor. With all these gadgets attached to your body, the option to labor in any other position other than your back becomes null and void.
Even without the machines, not many hospitals will allow a woman to labor outside the bed with the doctor waiting at the foot of it to catch the baby. This is an old practice that unfortunately won’t be changing any time soon. So for any new mom, it is good to go into the labor ward psychologically prepared to labor on their back.
2. You Can’t Have Your Favorite Aunt in the Room
Some families are so close that when one of them is having a child the whole clan flocks to the hospital. They anxiously wait for the mother to deliver so that they can go into the labor room and meet the new addition to the family. While this is a cool practice and knowing there are people waiting to meet the bundle of joy is bound to lift a woman’s spirit, most hospital policy is that only one or two visitors at a time can go in to see the mother and her newborn. This bummer rule, of course, puts a damper on any welcome to the world parties a woman’s favorite aunt has organized for the newborn in the hospital. Those group selfies, of course, have to wait until the mother and child are released first. Loud or wild celebrations are not allowed in most hospital environments.
In a birth center though, the woman gets to choose her birth team and she can reasonably choose as many as she wants and any celebration and selfies she wants to take after the birth are allowed. The only problem with a birth center is that in case of an emergency, the woman still winds up in the hospital with all the rules in place.
1. No Birthing Balls Allowed
There are numerous positions that a woman can use during labor. There is, of course, the traditional lie on your back with stirrups on and an IV drip and fetal monitor strapped on that most hospitals practice. Then there is the water birth that comes with the benefit of feeling floaty and relaxed while the warmth of the birth water helps soothe the tight back. Then, of course, there are the birth balls. These balls give the pregnant woman the flexibility she needs to change from one position to the other without exerting herself, not to mention that gravity is on her side as she labors. It also comes with the added advantage of helping ease the blood flow to the uterus while helping to alleviate lower back pressure. According to according to the Humbled Homemaker, all these benefits can be found in a birth center.
One would think that with all advantages, hospitals would have no problem allowing the woman to use this method to have their child, but no. Most hospitals prefer that the child is born on a bed and that the woman labors on her back, even though they know that this position works against the woman’s best efforts as she labors against gravity. Unfortunately, the pace at which this practice is gaining acceptance means that for the woman hoping she can use this she will get a huge shock when she is met with a resounding no.