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.

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.

5 Q&A about Inducing Labor from our CEO

We asked moms what questions they had about inducing labor and Lynn Erdman our CEO answered back.

  1. My girlfriends told me that having labor induced is the safest, and certainly most convenient, way to have my baby, but my nurse is saying that waiting for labor to start on its own is the safest. Which is true?

Many people don’t realize that undergoing labor induction for any reason is associated with immediate and long-term health risks. Induced labor can lead to excessive postpartum bleeding (or hemorrhage), which in turn, can increase the risk for blood transfusion, longer hospital stays, hysterectomy, more hospital re-admissions and, in the worst cases, death. Induction is also associated with an increased risk for cesarean birth. Cesareans increase a woman’s  risk for infection, problems with how the placenta implants in future pregnancies, and life-long pain from abdominal adhesions.

AWHONN recommends against inducing labor at any time during pregnancy unless it is medically necessary, because a woman or her baby have problems. The medication used to induce labor is a manufactured hormone and a type of drug that bears an increased risk for causing serious patient harm when used in error. With the increasing use of labor induction and its resulting complications, it’s more apparent than ever that we must improve our understanding of the health consequences of administering artificial hormones, especially to vulnerable populations like pregnant women and infants. The short- and long-term health risks are just too serious to undergo labor induction when there is not  a medical need. Continue reading