Birthing Room Procedures
Once your partner reaches the magic threshold of four centimeters or thereabouts, she will be admitted into a birthing room. Because you were generous enough to give up Monday Night Football one evening and go down to the hospital to take the tour with your partner, you have already seen this room or one like it. This is where you will spend the next several hours until your baby is born.
Activity of Nurses
When you check into your birthing room, a nurse (or nurse-midwife) will be assigned to your partner. She will have read the birth plan you brought with you and be familiar with your specific needs and desires for the birth.
She will ask your partner questions about the labor as well as her pregnancy history. She will want to know if your partner has experienced the bloody show or if her water is still intact. She may talk to you briefly about pain medication, referring you to the attending physician or the anesthesiologist, both of whom will appear at some point to introduce themselves.
In most labor and delivery situations, you are going to interact more with the nurses than the doctors. The attending physician may make an appearance during labor but not show up again until the moment of birth, when she is there to catch the baby. The anesthesiologist will give your partner an epidural—if your partner so desires—and, under normal circumstances, this may be the last you see of him.
Additionally, the nurse may only stay a few minutes when she checks up on you. She and her colleagues may go in and out of your room. Later, as the labor gains momentum and moves into the “rock 'em, sock 'em” transition phase, the nurse will be a constant presence and a source of strength.
The Labor and Delivery Room
The center of the labor and delivery room is your partner's bed. This is where she will be and where nearly all the action will take place. There will likely be a shower in your room, some labor and delivery rooms also have birthing tubs. Furnishings might include a large chair that folds into a bed, where you can sleep if the labor lasts overnight and you need to rest.
Your partner will again be hooked up to the external monitoring belts that were used in the admitting room. In high-risk pregnancies, or when the baby is having problems, the doctor may also decide to connect her to an internal fetal monitor. In this procedure, an electrode is inserted through the woman's cervix and placed on the baby's scalp. This kind of internal monitoring is used because it supplies more precise measurements than external means.
Many women express the desire to have a “natural childbirth,” but the phrase means different things to people. Most women today use painkillers of some sort, such as Advil. Furthermore, most expect some level of technological intervention when giving birth. Surveys have shown that nearly all women use electronic fetal monitoring. The majority of women use an intravenous drip.
Before the labor gets too intense, your partner may be set up for an intravenous drip, although the actual drip may not begin until later. She will likely receive a saline solution through the IV to replenish the fluids she is losing due to her extreme exertion. The nurses may use the IV as well to give her pain-killing drugs and oxytocin (such as Pitocin) to induce or speed labor along, if needed.