What a Labor Nurse Can Handle That You Can’t

by, Shelly Lopez Gray, MSN, RNC, IBCLC

    1. No one wants you to have the birth you want more than we do. Except maybe you, of course… We want to support you to stay healthy and have a healthy baby. If you end up with an unexpected birth experience, we mourn the loss of the idealized birth with you, and are here to help the experience you have be the best possible.

  1. Most providers will not stay with you during labor. Many times when a woman is admitted, she’ll ask when her provider is coming. Providers have busy offices to keep up with and demanding surgical schedules. Your nurse will be the one that stays by your side. Your provider will check in on you frequently and we give them continuous updates throughout your labor.
  2. We will not remember what your stretch marks looked like, how much cellulite you had, or what your vagina looked like once we walk out of your room. Guaranteed.
  3. Labor is painful. Everyone thinks their labor is different than everyone else’s, that no one could have labor pains as bad as yours. But the truth is, labor hurts for (almost) everyone. The best thing you can do is take prenatal education classes so you know what to expect. A lot of fear and pain comes from the anxiety of not knowing.
  4. Educate yourself on the benefits of breastfeeding. By now, everyone should know that there are a million and one reasons to breastfeed. There is so much evidence out there that supports all of the benefits of breastfeeding. No one comes to the hospital with a plan to breastfeed thinking that they may not be successful. So educate yourself prior to having your baby. Know what the most common problems are, success strategies and what to expect the first few weeks. Commit yourself to breastfeeding your baby!
  5. Designate someone as your photographer. Your partner will be caught up in the moment. They’ll probably forget all about the camera. Before you go into labor, designate someone as your personal photographer or hire a professional birth photographer. You will not remember the way your partner looked at you. You may not remember how your partner looked at your baby for the first time. You want to make sure you’re able to look back and remember all of the little details you may later forget.
  6. Talk to your provider. Your doctor and your midwife work for you . It’s a privilege that you’re allowing them to be a part of the birth of your baby. Don’t forget that. Discuss in advance things you would like, and ask questions. You want to know early in your pregnancy if you picked a provider who you aren’t comfortable with so you can change providers if you need to. No question is too silly. Trust me; they’ve heard it all before!
  7. Don’t be afraid to speak up. Frequently, women are admitted to the hospital and they feel as if they have no say in the care that is provided. But you can speak up! You have the right to ask questions, to get those questions answered, and you have the right to say no.
  8. Don’t get induced unless you have a medical reason. Even if your back hurts, and you have trouble sleeping at night, and you’re going to the bathroom 500 times a day, remember that your baby is baking in there! Every minute matters. So find methods to distract you if you’re very uncomfortable, and aim to go the full 40!
  9. Take it all in and cherish the moments. Every day, nurses take care of women who can’t get pregnant, who can’t stay pregnant and we care for women who will not get to take their baby home after delivery. Having a healthy baby is a lifelong, priceless gift. Cherish every moment, because before you know it, the toddler playing with your car keys will be the 16 year old asking to borrow your car.


Shelly Lopez-Gray is the creator of the nursing blog Adventures of a Labor Nurse: the Highs and Lows of Labor and Delivery. She writes about the secret work of nurses and provides information for women before, during and after their pregnancy as well as resources for nurses for professional growth and development. She works at Texas Children’s Hospital as a Clinical Nurse Coordinator and at Houston Methodist San Jacinto as a labor and delivery nurse.

4 thoughts on “What a Labor Nurse Can Handle That You Can’t

  1. linda says:

    That vaginal secretions on the baby face thing? Not recommended unless mom has been cultured to make sure she has no harmful infections or such, and she needs to have at least a dose or two of antibiotics before it’s done.
    IOW: only with very careful precautions to avoid infecting baby with something like GBS or e Coli, or such.

  2. Jocelyne Morel RN, BSN says:

    Hats off to the Labor and delivery room nurses. Lord knows we put up with a lot and we love what we do. Not only we have to deal with the unknown 24/7 but we also have to deal with ungrateful management who want to cut your staff,run the floor short.You can have a halo on your head but your manager will always turn it to a crown of thorns. I am now retired, I loved every minute spent in L@D ,doctors, patients, babies, the assistants the whole nine yards.

  3. margaret oleary says:

    I have given my heart and soul to my patients. And body and know i suffer with osteoarthritis from crawling on the floor to adjust the monitor or to help them deliver squatting or anything else they may have needed.

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