I spent a very enlightening weekend with a labor and delivery nurse; I drilled her with a million questions and got some great tips out of her–especially with regard to winning over nurses so they’ll go out on a limb for you and do things like get you a room faster or put another pillow under your head. (These things matter!)
Of course, your doctor or midwife’s approach to birth will have a lot to do with how things go, but if you’re being cared for by an OB (and you don’t hire a labor support doula) mostly you’ll be dealing with nurses, residents and/or the attending physician– “the attending.” These people can be lovely and helpful and brilliant or the opposite of those things.
But no matter what the staff are like there are always a few ways you can make the most of this care.
So without further ado, here’s how to get THE L&D NURSES TO LOVE YOU and make your life less miserable:
1. Say what you want to do, not what you don’t want to do.
Instead of walking in and saying “I don’t want to be on the IV, I don’t want to lie down, I want to ….” accentuate the positive: “I’d love to be able to move around a little, if possible,” “would it be OK if I got in the shower for a bit?” (If you don’t want to drag an IV around in early labor, ask for a Hep Lock.)
2. Bring food.
Who doesn’t want a little pick-me up treat at 3 am? Even if the nurses are not in the mood for the brownies you baked in early labor, they’ll appreciate the gesture. (Only bake in early labor if baking relaxes you; if it doesn’t don’t stress it!)
3. Don’t act like a Diva…
… barking demands and reeling off a list of how this birth will go. Staff are a little weary of the over-controlling. Maybe because labor is something that requires a bit of an open-mind? Nurses are there to help but they’re not your personal assistants. Be polite and call them by name. If your nurse thinks you’re rude and disrespectful she’s less likely to change the (smelly) absorbent pads under your butt…
4. If you have a truly horrible nurse, you can ask for another one.
This one is news to me, and maybe only applies to HUGE hospitals like the ones we have in NYC…. but it certainly makes sense that one would try to remedy a particularly rough situation. Let’s hope this doesn’t happen often.
5. Have birth preferences, but be able to convey them in one or two sentences.
Nurses can be very open and accommodating to a woman who has been educated and thought about her labor and the choices she can make. A survey of nurses revealed they think women with birth plans tend to be better prepared and tend to have more positive experiences. But don’t hand over a 6 page plan in 12-point type and expect each nurse to read it. Rather, know what you want but communicate the highlights of this wish list in one or two sentences.
6. Have respect for their training and ask them questions.
Studies have shown that patients who engage in their own care– with their doctors, nurses, anesthesiologist– tend to get better care out of their providers. It can feel a little overwhelming to be in a medical situation where you know far less than those around you, but you can ask! What is this IV for? How long is this on me? Is this optional? What if we waited and didn’t do this? These are great questions. Be curious (not skeptical).
Mostly, nurses got into their line of work to help people–patients and doctors–and they can be a real asset for you!! Some are training to become midwives. You might find your nurse has tons to offer in the way of advice and support, so be polite and curious and engaged. It might just brighten up her night and get her on your team when it comes to little perks like a fresh compress and re-filled cup of ice.