Hospitals can be intimidating but are much less so when you get to know them, so it's a good idea to have a look at the labour and delivery rooms, meet the staff who'll be looking after you, and get some idea about ward routine before your due date.
Admission to hospital
You'll have outlined in your birth plan how you'd like your labour to proceed, and once you've met your midwife or doctor, this is the time to make sure they have a copy of your plan so that you can look over it with them, and talk to them about it. They'll also make some checks and ask you a few questions about your labour.
If there's anything you're not happy with, if equipment, lights, and needles frighten you, for example, or if you're upset by a staff member, do something about it right away. Don't wait, letting your fears and anxieties fester and grow. Your partner or birth coach can voice your feelings if you aren't feeling strong enough to be assertive.
Your baby's heart will be checked regularly by a sonicaid, or an electronic fetal monitor. Your midwife will probably give you an internal check every four hours during the first stage to see how far your cervix has dilated but there's no hard and fast rule.
Each time you have an internal check, ask how things are going. It's very comforting to know how far your cervix has dilated between examinations. If you're asked a question while you're having a contraction, concentrate on your relaxation techniques and answer the question when the contraction is over.
Pain relief procedures
Once you've been admitted, an anaesthetist will visit you if you've asked for an epidural, and the procedure will be set up. This usually takes ten to 20 minutes. If a top-up is needed, this can usually be given by your midwife. If you've decided not to have any medical pain relief, you will be left with your birth coach and a midwife who'll stay with you throughout your labour.
Going to hospital
- Your midwife will look at your notes and ask you some questions about how your labour's going - whether your waters have broken and how often you're having contractions.
- Then she'll examine you: she'll palpate your abdomen to feel what position your baby's in; she'll listen to your baby's heartbeat, take your blood pressure, pulse, and temperature; and give you an internal examination to see how far your cervix has dilated.
- You'll be asked to give a urine sample to test for the presence of protein and sugar.
- You'll be asked when you last moved your bowels. You won't be given an enema or a suppository unless you ask.
- Then you'll have a shower or bath and settle in to your delivery room. If you've any questions or there's anything you want to tell the hospital staff about your preferences, now is the time.
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