Lessening the Risk of Birth Trauma

By Karin Beschen, LMHC

 “I was at a routine dental office visit a few weeks after my daughter was born. I remember being reclined in the chair, the bright overhead light and the scent of latex.  Images of surgical masks whipped through my mind.  Fear rushed through my body and I shook uncontrollably.  My body felt hollow and numb but also heavy and out of control.  In that moment I truly believed I was having another emergency c-section.”

This quote is from a woman who experienced a traumatic birth.  She is the mother of a beautiful baby and has had many moments of joy and connection, but also times of panic and fear.  “Mini movies” of her daughter’s birth play in her mind throughout the day.  She deleted the photos of her daughter in the NICU and she wants to disappear when her friends talk about pregnancy.  The birth didn’t end when her baby was born; it followed her from the hospital and it has interfered with many aspects of her life.

Research reveals that between 33-45% of women perceive their births to be traumatic. (Beck, 2013).  Birth trauma is defined as “an event occurring during the labor and delivery process that involves actual or threatened serious injury or death to the mother or her infant.  The birthing woman experiences intense fear, helplessness, loss of control and horror.”  (Beck, 2004a, p. 28).

Approximately 9% of women experience postpartum post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following childbirth. Most often, this illness is caused by a real or perceived trauma during delivery or postpartum. These traumas could include:

  • Prolapsed cord
  • Unplanned cesarean
  • Use of vacuum extractor or forceps to deliver the baby
  • Baby going to NICU
  • Feelings of powerlessness, poor communication and/or lack of support and reassurance during the delivery
  • Women who have experienced previous trauma, such as rape or sexual abuse
  • Women who have experienced a severe complication or injury related to pregnancy or childbirth, such as severe postpartum hemorrhage, unexpected hysterectomy, severe preeclampsia/eclampsia, perineal trauma (3rd or 4th degree tear), or cardiac disease

My therapy work with mothers is typically after a traumatic birth.  The more I learn about the mother’s labor and birth experience, the more I can understand what care and education could have better supported her during  birth.

The “3 E’s” – explain, encourage and empathize – can be a useful framework for obstetrical staff in lessening the risk of a traumatic birth.  

Explain  

When explaining a process, options or a procedure, always include the woman in the discussion of her own care.  There is a distinct difference in hearing a discussion and being a part of one.  If plans change, explain what is happening and what is needed to correct the situation.

Encourage

The connection a mother has with those caring for her during childbirth is deep — you are present during one of the most emotional, unpredictable times in her life.  Encouragement is empowering and can offer the mother a sense of control.  Encourage questions.   If plans change, discuss possible alternatives.   Using “we” in conversations shows alignment and rallying together.

Empathize 

Women in labor yearn for companionship, support and empathy.

Phrases such as “I know,”  “I’m here,” and “Yes” are phrases that connect staff with a woman’s experience when she feels pain, fear, disappointment or frustration.

I’ve heard many birth stories over the years; devastating stories of physical compromise, intense fear and loss of the baby’s life.  How the mother is cared for, is what she remembers.  The tone of your voice.  The gentleness.  The validation of feelings.  One of my clients was unaware she was being rushed for an emergency cesarean.  She said in all of the chaos and in a knee-chest position, she extended her arm and a nurse held her hand.  Beauty within terror.   It was a simple gesture and it has been the most powerful, healing memory for her.   Even in the midst of an emergency, someone saw her need.  Someone saw her.

Obstetric staff has great influence on how a mother remembers her birth experience.  Expressing empathy and explaining and encouraging a laboring and postpartum mom can influence her health and well-being.  New mothers who receive the “3 Es” can better transition to home, experience less anxiety, have more positive feelings about themselves and improved bonding with their babies.


Karin Beschen is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor specializing in reproductive and maternal mental health.  She also serves as a volunteer co-coordinator for Iowa for Postpartum Support International.

 

 

Additional Resources

Postpartum Support International 

PaTTCh (Prevention and Treatment of Traumatic Birth)

Improving Birth

References

Beck, C. T. (2004a). Birth trauma: In the eye of the beholder. Nursing Research 53(1), 28-35.

Beck, C. T., Driscoll, J.W., & Watson, S. (2013). Traumatic Childbirth New York, NY: Routledge.

 

 

 

Navigating a Labor Experience: As A Student

By: Amy Smith, Student Nurse at MGH Institute of Health Professions, Boston

I could feel the excitement in the room as I entered. The couple was receptive to my questions and suggestions; and the woman was more than happy to involve me in her care.  I tried to build rapport even though I was nervous in my role as a nursing student. This was the first time I had assisted a woman in labor and, after her membranes were artificially ruptured, her contractions started to come about two minutes apart.  At one point, I had my hand on her back and her husband smiled at me across the room and signaled for to me to remove my hand!  It was a great moment in which the support person and I connected!  I remained quiet during her contractions and I asked her if she wanted me to breathe with her but she said she had it under control. I kept thinking back to my own labors and what I felt I wanted from support people so I asked her if she would like lower back counter pressure but she refused.  The family had not done a childbirth preparation course so I assumed that their interest or skills with working through labor was limited.  I thought that they would need my help more yet her prenatal yoga practice seemed to have given her the tools she needed to get through her labor. The tools I offered her personally were meditative.  I told her to focus on her favorite place, to discuss her needs and frustrations with us in between contractions and reassured her that I was there for her to breathe with her and regulate her breathing as needed.

Reflecting on the Nursing Care Women and Babies Deserve virtues I used during this experience, I believe they were humility and engagement. Humility in that I had to understand I did not know what was best for this family. I assumed they would want and need what I needed during childbirth or skills I learned from the comfort measures video I used to prepare for this clinical experience. The woman decided what she needed and I was there to support her. In respecting their wishes I could engage with the family. Before I left them for the day they commented, “We felt like we had our own doula”.  It was easy and a pleasure to engage with this couple and follow their commands and offer suggestions. I told them I had never wanted to stay at clinical so much as I did with them. I will always remember this family.

 

Additional Resources

AWHONN’s Nursing Care and Women Babies Deserve Poster –  AWHONN’s statement on ethical nursing practice, Nursing Care Women and Babies Deserve, is rooted in the American Nurses Association’s Code of Ethics for Nurses, and provides nurses with core elements of ethical nursing practice for our specialty and corresponding examples of the virtues of ethical practice in action.

Read a commentary about Nursing Care Women and Babies Deserve in AWHONN’s journal Nursing for Women’s Health. Consider submitting your own story of how you or your colleagues practice nursing care that women and babies deserve at https://www.awhonn.org/?NursingCare


nursepicamyAmy is an ABSN student at MGH Institute of Health Professions, Boston.  She was a stay at home mother for 12 years,  a community coordinator for a non profit kids running program and a volunteer at Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston before deciding to enter the nursing field.  With extensive volunteer experience from a camp for blind & visually impaired adults and children, to co-president of an elementary school PTO, she enjoys working with diverse groups of all ages.  Amy aims to work in labor and delivery after graduation in August 2017 but is also interested in global health and epidemiology.  She has intentions to keep making a difference in the lives of those she may never meet again.

Childbirth While Recovering From Addiction

By Tasha Poslaniec , Perinatal Quality Review Nurse

The first time that I cared for a patient who was both recovering from drug addiction while experiencing acute pain, was in Labor and Delivery in 2014. Neither of us was prepared for this. We both exchanged the same shell-shocked, “What do we do now?” look several times that shift. I had a profound realization that day; I needed to come up with a better plan.

My initial idea was a literature search in Pubmed, a free national database of indexed citations and abstracts from thousands of science and healthcare journals. I also hit up Cochrane, a database that provides systematic reviews of evidence based medicine.

While it is difficult to get a good estimate on the prevalence of drug addiction in pregnancy, the National Institute on Drug Abuse published data in 2015 showing that 21,732 infants were born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) in 2012. That’s equal to one baby being born every 25 minutes with this syndrome. That is a lot of potentially challenging labors to manage.

Ultimately, the most important take away from my research was “treat the pain, not the addiction”. While it’s never ideal to administer narcotics to a recovering addict without a bigger plan, it’s still superior than allowing a patient to suffer.

In an ideal world, the best plan is to have a pre-labor consultation with the patient and anesthesiologist. This can be tricky to make happen as pain control is rarely addressed (especially the kind that recovering addicts need) during the prenatal course. The opportunity for this most often occurs when women are induced, or come in for antepartum testing. I was fortunate enough that my recovering patient was having both of those.  I was able to broach the topic during an NST, and I then requested her when she came in for induction. We were both thankful that the anesthesiologist on that day was open to discussing a plan that she was comfortable with. Just talking together as a team helped her relax.

My patient at that time was taking methadone, which I learned while doing my nursing assessment. Since she had not taken a childbirth class, I gave her homework to research how methadone can both increase the body’s sensitivity to pain (hyperalgesia) as well as limit the options for other pain medications like Stadol, due to the opioid agonist therapy (OAT) she was in. By front loading her understanding of how her pain control was about more than just preventing a relapse, her expectations were set to be more informed as well as more realistic.

The plan that we all agreed upon involved several key areas:

  • Set the expectation. While this falls under “patient education” it’s such a powerful tool that it bears having its own bullet point. Having a realistic and frank discussion about the realities of labor is important for any patient, and it should begin with prenatal care. As any L&D nurse can tell you, there is nothing more disheartening than a woman in labor demanding “the shot that takes all of the pain away”.
  • Utilize non-pharmacological modalities as much as possible. I created a folder with childbirth information for her in which Penny Simkin figured prominently. Her free guide with illustrations of positions and easy to read mantras were the perfect shorthand for the situation. While we started her induction, we discussed the handouts together.
  • Consult with anesthesia ASAP. Again, this can be difficult since you really need a doctor who is on board and .The plan that we came up with was for a labor epidural as soon as she wanted one. Thankfully, ACOG supports labor epidurals at any dilatation, and the evidence supports that receiving one “early” does not adversely affect labor outcomes. The other nuance was to administer the epidural without any opioids. No fentanyl mixed in, just Lidocaine and Bupivacaine. While the likelihood of the opioids placed in the epidural space crossing over into her circulation were pretty minimal, it was a very real concern for her, and we needed to respect that.
  • Have a plan B. Should things not go according to plan go sideways, we needed to have a course of action nailed down. This included contacting the obstetrician and enlisting their support while also reminding them that a patient in OAT can require as much as 70% more opiates to manage pain (which she was willing to take should she need surgery) post-operatively. We also discussed a social services referral in this event to help provide services to prevent relapse.
  • Provide continuous support. I have to say, this simple intervention was the most effective thing that I did. It helped that our census was low, and I had an understanding charge nurse.

In the end, a lot of stars aligned that day, as my patient was able to cope with the pain, receive an epidural, and ultimately give birth to a healthy baby girl.

Educating the patient, creating a team, and formulating a plan with the patient’s input, as well as providing continuous support, has guided me with the increasing number of patients that arrive in similar situations. This experience has also led me into many different discussions with other nurses and doctors.

The consensus has been that this growing population of patients is compelling enough to establish a pathway for care during labor.  Something we are working on and will hopefully provide a road paved with evidence based best practices in the near future. And while these patients are by no means representative of every person struggling with addiction (recovering or not) they allowed me to recognize a growing need, as well as to learn new ways of helping patients to cope with the dignity and compassion we all strive to provide for the patients we are caring for.


Search for these resources available in the AWHONN Online Learning Center 

  • Opioid Use in Pregnancy: Detection and Support Webinar
  • Breastfeeding Implications for Women Receiving Medication Assisted Treatment for Opioid Use Disorders Webinar

Tasha-poslaniecTasha Poslaniec has been a registered nurse for 17 years. She has been working in obstetrics for over a decade and is currently a Perinatal Quality Review Nurse and Childbirth Educator.

She also writes about nursing and childbirth and has been published in the Huffington Post and the American Journal of Nursing. Pain control in childbirth has long been a topic of study and research for her.

Stress The Modern Day Predator

Holly A. Lammer, RNC-OB C-EFM

“The history of man for the nine months preceding his birth would probably be far more interesting and contain events of greater moment than for all the three score and ten years that follow it.”

~Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Decreasing the amount of stress that we encounter daily is beneficial to our health.   Stress initiates the body’s ‘emergency response system’ which activates the adrenal glands to secrete cortisol and adrenaline.  Cortisol is important for energy (glucose metabolism), blood pressure regulation, immune function and inflammatory response, but is secreted in higher levels during increased stress.  Heart disease, diabetes, autoimmune disorders, chronic inflammatory disorders, mental health issues, obesity can all in some way be linked to how the chemicals of stress wreak havoc on our bodies.   Statistics paint a grim picture:

  • Preterm birth in the U.S. is higher than in other developed countries (Kaiser Family Foundation, 2015).
  • Stress is associated with an increased chance of preterm birth (PLos One, 2012)
  • High rates of anxiety and depression, according to WHO, the U.S. has one of the highest rate of mental disorders of any other developed country. (U.S. News, 2016)
  • High rates of obesity – females affected more than males (World Obesity, 2017)
  • Immune and allergy disorders, chronic diseases have increased drastically in the last few decades (overwhelming majority affecting women)(Molecular Metabolism, 2016)

One concern is how these chemicals affect a woman and her growing fetus during pregnancy.  Many pregnant women  are exposed to chronic stress;  examples are the stress of jobs, finances, family responsibilities, the expectation and drive for success, high fat and low nutrient diets, lack of time for physical activity,  lack  of community and family support, intimate partner violence, effects of racism and social marginalization.  Stress chemicals can pass to the developing baby through the placenta.

Watering the Seeds of Peace:

But pregnant women can seek to balance and reduce their stress in order to pass on positive neurological chemicals to their babies.  In particular, mindfulness practices such as yoga and meditation have profound impacts on the human brain and, when practiced in the prenatal period, can also influence the growing brain of the fetus. (PLos One, 2012)These types of practices produce changes in the neural pathways and hormonal centers that support parasympathetic response and as these neural connections are strengthened, sympathetic hypersensitivity is decreased. Mindfulness has the potential to reduce the effect of stress chemicals in the body (Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic and Neonatal Nursing, 2009) since these chemicals are being sent directly to the fetus, through the placenta.

Mindfulness may also reduce the effects of stress chemicals in the baby.  Research shows increases in gray matter concentration in the left hippocampus, which affects learning, memory, and emotional control.  Infants  born of mothers who practice meditation have been shown to have better self-regulation and more emotional control. (Infant Behavior and Development, 2014)

Practicing mindfulness on a regular basis can also “create change in the brain that support feelings of peace, contentment, self-confidence and joy.  As these connections in the brain are strengthened, states of anxiety, worry and anger are decreased. Consequently, incidence and severity of stress related conditions are decreased and may, at the very least, become easier to manage.  Mindfulness practice has been shown to decrease anxiety, depression, insomnia, hyperactivity, substance abuse and chemical dependency.  It can also increase bonding and connection to others.

Preparation for Birth

In addition to all the above mentioned benefits, mindfulness has the added benefit of decreasing sensation of chronic and acute pain and possible subsequent psychological distress caused by pain.  This effect has been correlated to altered function and structure in somatosensory areas and an increased ability to disengage regions in the brain associated with the cognitive appraisal of pain, basically ‘reframing’ the sensation.  Most childbirth methods are based on meditative techniques (Lamaze and Bradley breathing, Hypnobirthing, etc.)  Mindfulness practices also enhance immune function – extremely important in pregnancy where it is already suppressed.  If there is a complication that is present (obesity, immune disorder, mental illness) or one that is diagnosed during the pregnancy (gestational diabetes, hypertension, multiples) or that happens during birth (prolonged labor, surgical intervention), regular meditative practices can help prime the immune system so that the effects of these events may be milder.

It’s as simple as ‘ABC’

One of the great things about mindfulness is that it can be practiced literally anytime, anywhere.

A is for Awareness:  Simply pause or stop and become AWARE of the present moment. An easy way to do this is just notice the body in space… the arrangement of the legs or arms, the overall tone in the body… the sensations in the body. Use the senses to drive your awareness:  the feel of the coffee cup in your hand, the sound of a bird chirping or the rain on the roof, the warmth of the sun on your skin.

B is for Breathing:  Bring your awareness to your breath.  The breath is always present.  Notice the inhalation and the exhalation.  Just by noticing the breath without changing it in any way, nervous system shifts to parasympathetic activity. You can enhance this shift by guiding the breath to be longer and deeper. Regulating the breath in this way also decreases blood pressure and heart rate.  Imagine your breath bringing oxygen to your growing baby. Imagine your baby listening to your deep rhythmic breaths and the slowing of your heart beat.  Calm, serene.

C is for Consciousness:   Or ‘thinking’. Now you have the space in the nervous system to examine your thoughts. Notice that they come and go like clouds on a windy day.  If there is a particular thought or sensation that is troubling you or seems uncomfortable, you have the ability to CHOOSE your reaction instead of unconsciously reacting with habitual patterns of response.

When we practice in this way, even for a few minutes a day, our nervous system slowly begins to rewire and connections of peace and joy are strengthened.  In the pregnant mom, this benefit is wiring the baby’s brain from the very beginning of development.

Helpful Resources and Links

Water Exercise for Pregnant Women

by, Lizzy Bullock, WSI

Exercise goes a long way to promote to a healthy pregnancy.  Exercise has many benefits for mom and baby but in the summer months, it can be difficult to find an activity that doesn’t cause you to overheat. In fact, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists advises pregnant women not to exercise outside when it’s extremely hot or humid and to drink plenty of water before, during and after exercise to avoid dehydration.

Benefits of Swimming During Pregnancy

Many land-based exercises become difficult to participate in as you continue to gain weight, and if your legs begin to swell. This is especially true of exercises like running and cycling that require more effort to carry your increasing weight. The resulting discomfort and fatigue often deter women from continuing their exercise routines during the third trimester, according to a study published in Medical Science & Sports Exercise. However, a study published in the Journal of Nurse Midwifery found that pregnant women who swam for exercise were able to maintain their routine’s intensity and saw no decline in performance, even late into gestation. This continued exercise allows for a lowered risk of gestational diabetes and a shorter, easier labor, according to a study by the International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

And, thanks to water’s naturally cooling effect, it’s difficult to overheat in a pool as long as the water is not excessively warm. The Australian Physiotherapy Association reports that swimming and water aerobics are safe for a pregnant woman’s body and will not cause fetal hyperthermia when the pool is heated to 33 degrees Celsius or less (91.4 degrees Fahrenheit).  Do remember to drink fluids before and after swimming as you may not notice sweating as much when in the water.

A few other precautions: wear non-slip footwear when poolside to avoid slipping and avoid crowded pools because your risk of accidentally being kicked in the abdomen increases the more swimmers are in the pool. Wear sunscreen if swimming outside to protect your skin and prevent development of the mask of pregnancy (darker areas of skin which can develop on the face during pregnancy and be made worse by sun exposure).  Don’t swim so vigorously your heart rate exceeds 140 beats per minute. Finally, don’t dive or jump feet first from any height into a pool when pregnant.

Tried-and-True

Success stories from pregnant women worldwide are an inspiration to get in the pool. Kristi Lee, 36, competed in the United States Masters Swimming Nationals while pregnant in 2011. She noted a decrease in her lung capacity but still managed to take home a silver medal in her age group. She gave birth to a healthy baby girl and was back in the water three weeks postpartum.

Another successful pregnant swimmer, Natasha Bertschi, competed in a triathlon in her 34th week of pregnancy. She elected to stick with water exercise because she found that it relieved first-trimester nausea, helped her to give birth naturally (rather than by Cesarean) and kept her weight to a healthy level.

But, you don’t have to be an elite athlete to benefit from the effects of being in the water during your pregnancy. As a pregnant swimming instructor, I spend at least 30 minutes in the pool every day. Sometimes just walking back and forth; sometimes swimming gentle laps alongside a student. The result is significant. My body feels cooler even after I get out. I’ve also managed to avoid varicose veins) and foot and ankle swelling (caused by sluggish circulation in the lower legs during pregnancy). In fact, the Mayo Clinic specifically recommends walking in the pool to keep swelling at bay. On days that I don’t teach lessons, I feel a marked difference in my body: increased abdominal tightness, lower back pain, and a general heaviness that’s tough to bear.

Things to Consider Before Getting in the Pool

Can I Exercise?

With so many considerations, it’s hard to know what’s safe for you and your baby. If you’re unsure about exercising during pregnancy, know that the American Pregnancy Association recommends moderate exercise for nearly every pregnant woman. Research by the Mayo Clinic indicates that, when carried out safely, exercise during pregnancy results in many attractive benefits such as preventing excess weight gain, increasing stamina, allowing for easier sleep and easing back pain. Additionally, doctors at California State University found that regular exercise during pregnancy led to the formation of more hardy, resilient vascular muscles in the child. There are certain circumstances, such as when a woman has preeclampsia, placental complications, or cervical insufficiency, when your midwife or doctor may advise you to avoid exercise and take it easy.  It’s always a good idea to discuss exercise with your provider at your first prenatal visit.

Accommodating Your Changing Body

Every day you’re baby is growing and your body is changing – making traditional exercise less manageable and, let’s face it, less appealing. Research by Thomas W. Wang, M.D. published in the American Family Physician Journal points out the many bodily changes that affect a pregnant woman’s ability to work out. As your uterus and fetus develop, your center of gravity shifts, resulting in less stable balance. A larger midsection leads to lumbar lordosis (swayback) which can be painful, and hormone production is thought to soften joints, increasing the risk of sprains and strains. Wang also notes that pregnant women who perform weight-bearing exercise may report pain and discomfort in the pelvis and abdomen, likely due to tension on the round ligaments that have stretched immensely to provide space for your growing child.

Thankfully, when you swim water provides a resistive force without the demands of  load-bearing exercise. And, because water provides a low-gravity workout environment, women who are expecting can exercise without worrying about risks like falling, joint stress or abdominal trauma. What’s more, water’s weightlessness removes the sense of heaviness in the back, legs, and feet – providing you with much-needed relief.

When beginning any exercise, it’s always best to first check with your midwife or doctor before undertaking any workout activity. Once the go-ahead is given, get in the pool and enjoy.

Lizzy1-HeadshotLizzy Bullock is a swimmer, Red Cross certified swimming instructor (WSI) and swimming coach with over a decade of experience working with infants, children, and adults. Lizzy currently works as a swimming instructor and staff writer for AquaGear, a swim school and online swim shop.

 

Ladies on a Mission

Guatemala

by, Lori Boggan, RN

When we enter the medical profession, we make a lifetime commitment to the service of others.  As nurses, we serve our patients, our community, our friends, and our family.  No other profession has such a deep connection to and is so trusted by society.  We are the ones at the bedside day and night.  We are the ones that our patients trust with their privacy, their secrets, and their lives.

Volunteer nursing is no foreign concept for American nurses.  In fact, the earliest “nurses” were nuns, or family members of those active in the Civil War.  They were in the trenches before any formal nursing education or organization existed.

For most, nursing is a calling.  Nurses are innate caregivers.  What is it about a nurse that is willing to use her own money, travel to an unfamiliar place sometimes lacking basic accommodations, and work long hours without pay?  It is the drive to care for those in need.

The following interview is with one of AWHONN’s own that goes above and beyond.  Nancy Stephani Zicker, a labor and delivery nurse from Central Florida has journeyed to Guatemala yearly since 2014 to help less fortunate women in need of gynecological surgery.  She journeys with her friend and obstetrician, Dr. Cecille Tapia-Santiago, of Volusia ObGyn Daytona Beach.  In addition to gynecological surgeries each year, Dr. Tapia sees patients in the mission’s clinic and educates Guatemalan midwives.  I interviewed both ladies in hope to inspire others to join mission work.

How long have you been going on missions?

Nancy:  I have been going on yearly medical mission trips every March since 2014.

Cecille:  I have been doing 1-3 mission trips a year since 2000.


Where has your mission work taken you?

Both: Guatemala


Why Guatemala?  Is there any particular need there with regard to women and infant’s health?

Cecille:  Absolutely. When we go there we provide contraceptive care, well woman care, and manage surgical conditions (uterine fibroids, large ovarian cysts, and pelvic prolapse being the most common).


Describe a typical day in the life of a volunteer nurse.

Nancy:  Each year that I have gone, I have been assigned to work as a circulating nurse (and sometimes scrub in to tech or assist) in the OR. There are clinic nurses, OR nurses, PACU nurses and ward (floor) nurses.

FullSizeRender-100We go in to a completely bare room and make it a functioning OR.

As an OR nurse, we first have to unpack and sort all of our supplies, as well as set up the operating rooms. We arrive on a Saturday late afternoon and get right to work. Sometimes we set up in community centers and sometimes we set up in an actual hospital. This usually takes Saturday evening and all day Sunday to accomplish.

Monday morning, the surgeries begin. Depending on the number of cases scheduled, we usually are in the OR from 8am-5pm. Once all surgeries are done at the end of the week, we have to break down the ORs to leave the space as we found it and inventory all supplies so we can order more for next year.  We all have had to improvise and be creative with available equipment and supplies. It’s quite the challenge, but the entire team comes together and we make it work.z


20140306_102410Cecille, describe your work educating midwives in Guatemala

It’s THE BEST PART. Midwives in Guatemala are mostly lay (no formal training at all). Guatemala has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world. We do 1-2 day seminars and teach basic infant resuscitation as well as basic management of labor, delivery and postpartum complications. The midwives have to deal with a lot of prejudice from the physician community and often won’t get paid for their service if the patient has to be transferred to a hospital.  So anything they can do to show their critics that they are furthering their education and are doing right by a patient is helpful.

Is there any one particular patient story that you can share that stands out in your mind where you felt you really made a difference in that patient’s life? 

Cecille:  One of the midwives came back to a refresher course and told us that she gave CPR to a baby with apnea. Initially the family was resistant and thought the baby was dead. The midwife pulled out her certificate from the seminar and showed the family. She told the family to let her try and do CPR. She successfully performed mouth to mouth and chest compressions and the baby was fine!  We also had a young lady with an enormous pelvic mass that was compressing her entire abdomen and pelvis. She had been turned down by everyone and when we saw her, she was cachectic and probably a few weeks away from dying. We removed an enormous yet benign ovarian cyst. It was over 50cm in diameter and weighed 25 pounds.

How has mission work changed your practice?

Nancy:  It has made me a better nurse. Seeing and working with the patients I see on my mission trips has renewed my love of nursing and my compassion for people in general. The patients I see on these trips are so profoundly grateful for the care they receive.  It helps to renew one’s zest for nursing.

Cecille:  It hasn’t really changed how I practice at home, but you have to be a particular type of person to do well on these trips. In order to do this type of work you have to be patient, flexible, meticulous, and creative. You can’t go to these trips if you’re going to expect U.S. standards of equipment, timeliness and availability of things you have every day at home (for example blood, cautery, suction, light).  I have seen time and time again physicians, nurses and staff struggle because they have unrealistic expectations of what it’s like to operate in third world conditions. And by the same token seen plenty (like Nancy) that just sail, adapt and just sail.

How has mission work changed you as an individual?

Nancy:  Personally it has made me realize that as humans we all want the same things- we want our children healthy, we want access to quality healthcare, we want to be able to be happy in our daily lives, and we want a peaceful existence.

Cecille:  It refreshes my choice and faith in my profession. Medicine has changed so much. The physician/patient relationship many times is not what it used to be. We live in a defensive medicine environment that often plays in to how we practice here. Over there, patients and families trust and believe that, just like at home, I do my very best to provide the very best care my skill set allows, and that I will never go above that skill set and take unnecessary risks. That trust factor makes any responsibility tolerable.

Guatemala

What advice would you give a nurse contemplating mission work?

Nancy:  It’s important to choose the right organization to join, one that interests you. Each one has a different application process and requirements, as well as when and where they go on their trips. They all differ with their missions and what they offer. I have gone on 3 trips so far, and have applied for my 4th with the same group. It’s called Cascade Medical Team, whose parent organization is Helps International. I have friends that have used various other organizations. It’s important to choose one that fits your interests and your budget, as well as the dates you’re available to go. Also, for me on my first trip, it really helped that I went with someone I knew and who had experience with volunteering for medical mission trips. Not only was she able to give me a heads up on what to expect, but it is just amazing to be able to share the experience with someone you know- someone who understands why you would want to, or should want to, volunteer for such a trip
.

How can a nurse prepare for his/her first mission?

Nancy:  Be open-minded. Prepare to go out of your comfort zone and learn new things, both in the nursing/medical field and also culturally.

FullSizeRender-101Where to next?

Nancy:  To date, I have only been to Guatemala. At this point in time, I only volunteer for one mission trip each year and I have found that I really enjoy helping the people there and so have concentrated my trips to Guatemala.

Thanks for sharing, Nancy and Cecille!  And thank you for your service!  For more information on their work with Cascade Medical Team, visit www.cascademedicalteam.org.

Lori Boggan, RN
Lori is a NICU Staff Nurse at Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Gothenburg, Sweden. After becoming a nurse, Lori traveled across the country to work a three-month travel contract in San Francisco, California. Nearly five years later her journey continued to Gothenburg, Sweden, where she now lives and works. She also write her own blog Neonurse at https://neonursetravels.com/ or on Instagram.

Five Easy Steps to Save Lives and Promote Healthy Families

by, Donna Weeks

It’s staggering to think that 54 to 93 percent of maternal deaths related to postpartum hemorrhage (PPH) could be avoided.

So what can we do on our units to reduce the number of women with complications, or even death, from an obstetrical hemorrhage?

I have taken part in many discussions about high tech simulation and drills, and we are always asking ourselves:

  • How can we have effective drills without a simulation lab and simulation models?
  • Can low tech simulation play a beneficial role in decreasing obstetrical hemorrhage?

I recently took part in a pilot program that the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN)  trialed on postpartum hemorrhage risk assessments, evidence-based oxytocin orders, and hemorrhage drills and debriefing based upon a variety of settings.

Here are a few ideas that I have implemented without utilizing a simulation lab. These easy suggestions may help every obstetrical unit  raise awareness of obstetrical hemorrhage and contribute to decreased maternal morbidity and mortality.

First, have a mock code on your unit using your own crash cart.  You may be surprised to find out how many nurses are uncomfortable with finding key items in your crash cart.  Use a pillow to simulate a gravid uterus and have one nurse demonstrate left uterine displacement while other nurses deliver compressions and ventilations.  Additional nurses may find supplies, IVs, and medications in the code cart.

Second, devise a scavenger hunt and ask your staff to find the closest location of items needed during an obstetrical hemorrhage.  In many units the OB techs check the hemorrhage cart and the nurses may be less familiar with the items on the cart.  They may be leaving the room to get supplies and medications that are already on the cart.  In a true emergency this will use up valuable time.

Third, consider efficiencies. Do you have your medications locked in a Pyxis or Omnicell?  Do nurses have to remove the uterotonics one at a time? Due to the awareness raised by our hospital’s participation in AWHONNs postpartum hemorrhage project,  the day after our medication administration system was installed our pharmacy was notified that we needed a postpartum hemorrhage kit.  Now with one selection we retrieve ergonovine maleate (methergine), misoprostol (cytotec), carboprost (hemabate) and oxytocin (pitocin).

Fourth, how do you drill? What about drills in an empty patient room?  Have a drill in a patient room with nothing more than a mannequin.  Change the scenarios and include the less common situations.  With a type and screen being completed on most admitted labor and delivery patients it is not common to be ordering uncrossedmatched blood.  I use a scenario that includes a woman presenting to L&D with an obvious hemorrhage. This scenario presents the opportunity to review how and when to retrieve uncrossmatched blood.  What is your procedure?  Is there special paperwork or forms?  During one drill we strongly stressed the time element including how quickly we could generate a medical record number and how much time would be lost if an OB tech was sent for the blood. In our institution uncrossmatched blood may only be released to a physician or nurse.  Take the scenario further and include your massive transfusion protocol.  Review when and how to initiate the protocol.

Lastly, practice quantification of blood loss until it becomes routine.  Use scales, work sheets, and a variety of scenarios to keep staff informed and interested.  These can be presented by a charge nurse on any shift without preplanning.  It is just one more way to keep obstetrical hemorrhage on the forefront of everyone’s mind.  The more awareness we raise the better chance we have of early recognition and intervention. The goal is to have a healthy mother and healthy family.

DonnaDonna is a Perinatal Clinical Specialist at JFK Medical Center in NJ.  She has always loved OB nursing and also enjoys teaching.  She is currently an adjunct instructor at Kaplan University and Walden University.  She was the Hospital Lead for AWHONN’s PPH Project.

 

 


Citations

Berg, C. J., Harper, M. A., Atkinson, S. M., Bell, E. A., Brown, H. L., Hage, M. L., . . . Callaghan, W. M. (2005). Preventability of pregnancy-related deaths: Results of a statewide review. Obstetrics & Gynecology, 106, 1228–1234.doi:10.1097/01.AOG.0000187894.71913.e8

California Department of Public Health. (2011). The California pregnancy-associated mortality review. Report from 2002 and 2003 maternal death reviews. Sacramento, CA: Author. Retrieved from http://www.cdph.ca.gov/data/statistics/Documents/MO-CA-PAMR-MaternalDeathReview-2002-03.pdf

Della Torre, M., Kilpatrick, S. J., Hibbard, J. U., Simonson, L., Scott, S., Koch, A., . . . Geller, S. E. (2011). Assessing preventability for obstetric hemorrhage. American Journal of Perinatology, 28(10), 753-760.doi:10.1055/s-0031-1280856

Resources

Get free postpartum hemorrhage resources from AWHONN.

Learn more about AWHONN’s Postpartum Hemorrhage Project

For more in-depth info and to learn more about how to reduce clinician errors associated with obstetric hemorrhage mortality and morbidity, join AWHONN’s newest implementation community on Postpartum Hemorrhage.

TOLAC and VBAC and Rupture! Oh My!

by, Bree Fallon

As a brand new labor nurse fresh out of school, I distinctly remember visiting with a seasoned traveling nurse, Pam Spivey, during an afternoon of monitoring women on the antepartum unit years ago. One of the preterm women I was caring for that afternoon was planning to attempt a vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC) with this pregnancy when the time came.  I was pretty green and knew what the acronym stood for, and that was about it. Pam and I began to converse about VBAC and she shared a story of hers from years prior.

She told me about a woman who had been admitted to L&D. The woman had delivered her previous baby in another country by C-section and the plan for her was to allow a trial of labor after cesarean (TOLAC). Pam said her labor progressed beautifully and soon it was time for her to push. I leaned forward on the edge of my seat as Pam recounted the details. She called the provider to come for delivery. “The fetal head crowned up so nicely, and then it was gone!” I felt my eyes grow large. “Where did it go, Pam?!” I thought. She explained the next moments were a mad dash. She pulled all of the cords and plugs out of all of the devices and outlets, grabbed the nursery nurse and down the hall they went with the woman in the bed, snagging the physician on the way as they ran to the OR. Pam even remembered losing her shoe along the way to the OR, but she did not slow down. Confused, I sat in disbelief of this story. Pam recalled the team got the woman to the OR, rapidly delivered her baby via C-section, and both mom and baby survived the ordeal and did well. Still perplexed, I asked out loud this time, “Where did the head go, Pam?” The kind nurse looked at me and explained when a woman’s uterus ruptures, there is no pressure inside the uterus or on the baby anymore. The instant that the head was gone, Pam knew the woman had ruptured her uterus and the lives of both mom and baby were at stake. Horrified, I logged this story away in my brain, vowing to remember what to do when this happened while I cared for a woman.

My first year flew by. Plagued by a horrible cloud of bad luck that followed me on and off of my floor daily, whenever I saw my name assigned next to a woman attempting VBAC, I would swallow the lump in my throat, and Pam’s story would flash in my head. I would mentally prepared myself, ensuring I had my A game for this woman, should any signs or symptoms of uterine rupture arise at any point in the day. The woman would either be successful in delivering vaginally or would not be successful. The only thing that mattered to me at the end of the day was healthy baby, healthy mommy.

A couple years later, my very best friend in the world and an exceptional labor nurse, Kelsey, was pregnant with her first baby. Her baby was breech and was delivered by cesarean. I remember Kelsey laying behind the drape, asking for updates, if her baby girl was ok. Having the privilege of caring for her sweet infant in the OR that day, I swaddled her newborn up as fast as I could. Kelsey had already waited 9 months to meet her daughter, so the extra few moments it took for me to wrap the baby and hand her to Kelsey’s husband before Kelsey could even see her seemed cruel. They snuggled with their new little one while doctor finished the surgery. In the PACU, Kelsey felt pukey and could not hold her infant. Recovery was not easy, but she didn’t know any different. Still today, Kelsey remembers having a difficult time bonding with her infant, and wonders if her delivery by cesarean had anything to do with it.

IMG_6993With Kelsey’s second baby, after discussing the risks and benefits with her provider, Kelsey wanted to attempt VBAC. I was very hopeful for her, but sick to my stomach a little too. Remembering Pam’s story, I was incredible apprehensive and ultimately didn’t want anything bad to happen to Kelsey. Her pregnancy flew by and was induced at 39 weeks and 5 days. I raced to the hospital with the very important job of taking pictures. Kelsey’s labor progressed and she delivered quickly with no complications. Watching my best friend get to see her baby immediately and hold and soothe her right away is one of my most favorite memories of my career. I had taken care of many women who had successful VBAC, but did not really understand its significance until seeing first hand Kelsey and her husband experience both types of delivery.  Never having a cesarean myself, but circulating hundreds, I considered them routine. It was very powerful for me to see the difference between a vaginal birth and a cesarean for the same woman.

Just this week I was asked to review some literature to develop patient education on VBAC. Here are a few facts that stuck out to me taken from ACOG Committee Opinion 342 as well as ACOG VBAC Guidelines.

  • 60-80% of appropriate candidates who attempt VBAC will be successful. The odds are in your favor that a woman will have a vaginal birth.
  • The risks for both elective repeat cesarean and TOLAC include maternal hemorrhage, infection, operative injury, thromboembolism, hysterectomy, and death. Both have their risks.
  • Overall benefits for a VBAC is avoiding major abdominal surgery. This lowers a woman’s risk of hemorrhage and infection, and shortens postpartum recovery too.
  • The most maternal injury that happens during a TOLAC, happens when a repeat cesarean becomes necessary if the TOLAC fails. Maternal injuries can include uterine rupture, hysterectomy, or even death.
  • There are risks for baby too. Both elective repeat cesarean delivery and TOLAC neonatal complications can include admission to the NICU, hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy, and even death. One study found the composite neonatal morbidity is similar between TOLAC and elective repeat cesarean delivery for women with the greatest probability of achieving VBAC.
  • If a woman has had a prior vaginal birth or goes into labor spontaneously, she has an increased probability of successful VBAC.
  • If a woman had an indication for her initial cesarean that may reoccur with subsequent labors such as labor dystocia or arrest of descent, she has a decreased probability of successful VBAC. If a woman  is of non-white ethnicity, is more than 40 weeks gestation, is obese, has preeclampsia, has a short interval between pregnancy or increased neonatal birth weight, her probability of successful VBAC is also decreased.
  • Women pregnant with twins attempting VBAC have similar outcomes to women with singleton gestations and did not have a greater rate of rupture or perinatal morbidity. (I have never had a twin mom attempt VBAC but it can be done!)
  • On the topic of induction, one study on 20,095 women attempting VBAC found a rate of uterine rupture of 0.52% with spontaneous labor, 0.77% for labor induced without prostaglandins and 2.24% for prostaglandin-induced labor. Prostaglandins should be avoided in the third trimester in women who have had a previous cesarean section.

As years went by, I cared for more women who wanted a vaginal birth after cesarean. I cheered hard for each of them to be able to experience a vaginal birth. Any healthy birth is always a miraculous moment to have the privilege to be a part of. However, caring for women who had only experienced a cesarean before the days of skin-to-skin in the OR and then watching them birth vaginally, and being able to instantly see, touch, hold their infant, is priceless.

In my 12 years of bedside care I worked in facilities delivering on average 4,000- 5,000 babies a year, and a uterine rupture during labor had never happened to one of the women in my care  I was in charge once where one of the nurses correctly identified that the scar on her patient’s uterus was beginning to pull apart. The woman had a cesarean immediately and delivered a healthy baby without any complications. We have had cases of uterine rupture since on my floor. It can happen and if it happens, it becomes an emergent situation that must be resolved swiftly and seamlessly for a good outcome. However, it doesn’t happen very often. In fact, ACOG cites the risk for uterine rupture for woman attempting TOLAC is low, between 0.7-0.9%.

There are many indications where a cesarean delivery is absolutely necessary. In the case of an elective repeat section or a TOLAC, it is imperative that women review the risks and benefits of both with their provider to ensure they make the right choice and promote  a healthy, happy mom and a healthy, happy baby.

Bree FallonBree Fallon, BSN, RNC-OB, C-EFM
Bree Fallon is a Clinical Educator for Perinatal Services at Shawnee Mission Medical Center, the busiest delivering hospital in Kansas City. She graduated from nursing school in 2004 and started her career in a tertiary care facility, providing high risk intrapartum and antepartum care. In 2010, she moved to Children’s Mercy in Kansas City who was looking for experienced L&D nurses to help open the their new Fetal Health Center.

Nurses Save Lives

by, Christine Douglass, RN
Florida Hospital Heartland Medical Center

As a charge nurse on a busy Labor & Delivery unit I am responsible for the nurses on my team that work each day with me. On one particular day we had a patient who was scheduled for a repeat cesarean section for her second baby. Everything was going fine with her recovery in PACU, until I heard an unfamiliar alarm sounding on the unit.

I looked up at the fetal monitor board to see if the monitors indicated anything wrong. I saw that the patient in room 202, who was also in PACU, had a blood pressure of 70/40 and a heart rate of 160. I ran into the room and asked the nurse if she had seen the monitor.

She stated that she had just given the patient IV pain medication and that was why her heart rate was high and blood pressure was low. I said that is unusual for that to happen, it looks more like she is going into shock. I told her to start a second IV line and open both line wide. I checked her fundus to find out that her uterus was boggy and when massaged a mountain of clots came out.

I rang the call bell and asked OB tech to get the scale to weigh the clots and had another nurse, who had since come into the room, to call the doctor and get me an order for methergine. Methergine was given and in 15 minutes more clots were expressed and weighed. By this time we had weighed a total of 1200-1300 mls, not including the 800 mls she had lost in the OR. I asked the nurse to call the doctor back and when she did she said to prep the patient and take her to the OR, the doctor was on her way to the hospital. The patient was taken to the OR and given several units of blood and FFP.

Her uterus was saved for the time being and she was sent to the ICU for the night to be closely monitored. Two days later when she returned to our unit she told me her side of the story. She stated that while everything was happening to her she felt like she was above the room looking down and then she saw her grandparents sitting on a park bench. She told them that she wanted to stay with them and they told her she had to return to take care of her little girls. When she left she told me that we were her angels and we had saved her from death and she appreciated all we did for her and her family.

Later that day the doctor thanked me for “catching” the change in vital signs before she had gotten any worse and that I had probably saved her life. It makes be proud to be able to save someone’s life and reaffirms to me that I made the right career choice many years ago. I love what I do.

A Nurse Making History

By, Lori Boggan

Organ transplantation, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, dates back as early as 1869 with the first skin transplant. The first kidney transplant occurred nearly one hundred years later in 1954. Organ transplantation has saved countless lives. In 2014, transplantation history was made. It was the year the first transplantation bore life. Continue reading