10 Questions You Should Ask Your Nurse When You're In Labor

When you're in labor in a hospital or birthing center, your OB or midwife will undoubtably be in and out to check on you. But it's your nurse that'll be logging in the most hours by your side. They'll be the ones monitoring you and your baby and coaching you through the different stages of labor. And while there are questions you should save specifically for your provider, there are things you should ask your nurse when you're in labor, too.

Labor with my daughter lasted 29 hours, 17 of which were spent in the hospital. Due to shift changes, I had several nurses over the course of that time, and I was universally impressed with all of them. My nurses were both personable and professional. I was equally comfortable making conversation with them as I was asking them to look at my lady parts. They were the ones who listened, advised, and provided for my comfort. Perhaps most importantly, they were my communication line to my midwife.

I know some women who have had negative experiences with individual labor and delivery nurses, but my overall impression is that they are, as a group, outstanding human beings. They've pretty much seen it all, so don't be afraid to ask any or all of the following:

"What Does That Mean?"

Effacement... placenta previa... transverse... I'm guessing it's all Greek to you. It can be really scary when your provider says something like "fetal distress" without telling you what's actually going on. They may not have time to explain, but your nurse should.

Sometimes hospital staff forget that you don't have a medical degree, so speak up if you don't understand a term, procedure, or medication.

"How Dilated Am I?"

Typically, nurses are the ones to perform cervical checks and report their findings to your provider (although the doctor or midwife may do some of the exams themselves, too). They're checking to see how dilated and thinned your cervix is, as well as the baby's position.

According to Mother&Baby, these exams take place about once every four hours. If you haven't been checked in awhile and are concerned about your progress, it's OK to ask (just not, you know, every two seconds).

"Can I Eat?"

Different providers have different rules when it comes to eating and drinking during labor. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists advises modest intake of clear liquids for uncomplicated labors. So chances are pretty good your provider will prohibit you from enjoying solid foods.

Check with your nurse just to make sure, though. They'll let you know what's green-lighted (broth, juice, Sprite, etc.) and what isn't. If you're nice, you may even get a popsicle.

"Can You Get Rid Of My Mom?"

Is someone in the room bothering you? Father-in-law making inappropriate comments? Partner chewing loudly? Since you have a relationship with these people, it can feel callous to kick them out yourselves.

Most nurses don't mind playing the bad cop, so feel free to put in your request for a speedy ejection of the offending party.

"Can I Have... ?"

Your nurse has access to all kinds of goodies. They can get you a pair of warm socks if you're cold. They've got the ice chips hook up. If you want to try some different positions, they can probably even get you a birthing ball.

If you're in need of some creature comforts, let them know. The heated blankets aren't going to walk in that room all by themselves.

"Can You Help Me Change Positions?"

Especially if you're hooked up to an IV and monitors, it can be hard to do anything except lay in your hospital bed. But movement and change of position can be key to getting your labor to progress.

If your partner is clueless, ring the call button and ask for help... even if it's just to get to the bathroom and back.

"Can You Call The Anesthesiologist?"

If there's one thing I learned during labor, it's not to wait to ask for an epidural (if you think you want one). The anesthesiologist is busy and can't drop everything the second you say "go." Plus, you have to get an IV first.

If your pain is getting to be too much and you're ready for the drugs, go ahead and let your nurse know ASAP so they can get the process started.

"What's That Sound?"

Throughout labor, your nurse will be checking baby's heart rate. If you get that epidural, you'll have to be hooked up for continuous fetal monitoring. This involves having elastic bands with transducers strapped to your belly. The transducers are connected to a noisy little machine.

Don't hesitate to ask your nurse to explain the sounds. You may be able to hear your baby's heartbeat and even tell when the machine registers a contraction. Plus, it will ease your mind if you know all those beeps and whirs are nothing to be concerned about.

"Is This Normal?"

There's plenty to worry about during labor. You're probably experiencing sensations that you've never had before. Like, ever. From back labor to losing your mucus plug, labor is weird and kinda gross.

In all likelihood, your nurse has seen it all. They can reassure you if what you're feeling is typical and intervene if it isn't.

"What Do You Suggest?"

Labor and delivery nurses are veritable founts of knowledge when it comes laboring techniques. From a hot compress to the perineum to prevent tearing to "labor dancing" to alleviate back pain, they know stuff you don't. And if you don't ask, you'll stay in the dark.

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