Nursing Birth

One Labor & Delivery Nurse’s View From the Inside

Don’t Let This Happen To You #24 PART 2 of 2: Jessica & Jason’s Back Door Induction April 21, 2009

Continuation of the “Injustice in Maternity Care” Series

 

Please see, Don’t Let This Happen To You #24 PART 1

 

My first hour with Jessica & Jason was spent getting to know them, tidying up the room, setting it up the way I like it (I know, sometimes I can be a bit anal about clutter!  I don’t know how some nurses can work in so much clutter!!), and turning up the pitocin a couple of times.  Around 4:00pm I had left the room to scrounge around for a few more pillows for Jessica.  This took me about 10 minutes since pillows are pretty much like gold in the hospital: rare to find and very precious to have!!  Haha!  Anyways, as I walked into the room Dr. T was leaning over the trash can throwing something away and Jessica was lying flat on her back in bed, spread eagle, completely uncovered, and sitting in a big puddle.  It took me a few seconds to piece together what had happened.  Turns out Dr. T was throwing away the amniohook he used to BREAK Jessica’s water WITHOUT me being in the room!  I quickly stepped towards the bed to raise her head and cover her up.  The entire bed was soaked.  It was getting harder and harder for me to contain myself and I could feel the blood boiling up into my head. 

 

Me:  “What’s going on?”  (said in the nicest voice I could muster up)

 

Dr. T:  “Oh, are you taking care of Jessica today?”

 

Me:  “Yes.”

 

Dr. T:  “Well, I just got out of the OR and I wanted to check her progress and apparently the residents hadn’t ruptured her yet!  So I just did.”

 

Me: “Oh, well, what nurse came in here with you?  I’d like to thank her.”  (also said in the nicest voice I could muster up but clearly my sarcasm was piercing through all my attempts to stay calm)

 

Dr. T:  “No, it was just me.”

 

Me:  “Oh really, well you should have come and got me.  I would have been more than happy to assist you.  It would have liked to lay some more chux pads down under her so that when you broke her water it wouldn’t cause so much of a flood.  I’m going to have to change all the sheets now, all of them.  And what if the baby had a decel…”

 

Dr. T:  (interrupting me)  “Well I couldn’t find you.”  (turns towards Jessica)  “I’ll come back in a couple of hours to check you.”  (turns to walk out of the room and then spins around and turns towards me)  “Why is her pit only at 8mu?”

 

Me:  “Jessica didn’t even get to the hospital until 1:30 and policy states we can’t start pitocin until the patient is fully admitted.”

 

Dr. T: “Well she’s still only 4cm so you are going to have to keep going up on the pit if she is going to get anywhere.”  (This statement really takes the patient right out of the equation doesn’t it!  Outrageous!)

 

Me:  “What’s the baby’s station?  Is the baby still high?”

 

Dr. T: “Um yes, but the head is now well applied.  She’s 4cm/50%/ -3…..maybe -2.”

 

At this point all I can think of is “Liar, liar, liar!”  Dr. T turned to leave the room and after he left I assisted Jessica out of bed to the bathroom so that I could change all of her sheets and help her into a new dry gown. 

 

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I need to digress for a moment to explain exactly how outrageous it was for Dr. T to check the patient and rupture her membranes without me or any other nurse in the room.

 

#1 Although this might seem like a silly thing to be upset about, the fact that he ruptured her membranes without even putting down a few extra chux pads (which were sitting right on the counter) is very rude in my opinion.  It’s like saying “You clean up my mess because I am above that.”  Honestly it wasn’t that difficult to change the bed over and help the patient into a new gown but it’s the principle of it that bugs me.

 

#2  It is an unwritten rule at my hospital that a nurse is to accompany any doctor or midwife during a vaginal exam.  Even the residents are taught this during orientation.  Is a doctor or midwife fully capable of performing a vaginal exam solo…of course they are!  But it isn’t about that.  It’s mostly about touching base with the nurse first to see how things have been going all shift with the patient.  It’s about good communication and team work.  And sometimes another vaginal exam isn’t necessary and the nurse can advocate against it!!!  I haven’t met one doctor or midwife that attends births at my hospital that has a problem with this arrangement….unless they are trying to do something that they know the nurse will question them on….like performing an early amniotomy on a patient whose baby is still high!!  The fact is that that is the ONLY reason Dr. T didn’t come and get me…because he knew that I, and many other nurses, would question the necessity and safety of such an intervention.  So he had to SNEAK it.  What he did was so SNEAKY and it infuriated me! 

 

#3  The other most important reason to obtain the assistance of the patient’s nurse (or ANY nurse at the desk really) is just in case something bad was to happen.  Although something acutely bad is unlikely to happen from just a vaginal exam, the nurse’s role in assisting with the vaginal exam is to maintain the patient’s comfort and protect the patient’s modesty.  (As you can see, Dr. T did none of those things, and things like that happen a lot with some of the docs I work with.  All of the pregnant readers I know understand how uncomfortable it is to lay flat on your back for any length of time when you are pregnant!)  But there ARE acute risks with performing an amniotomy, especially an early or prelabor amniotomy. 

 

Risks related to amniotomy that have emergent consequences include:

1)     Umbilical cord prolapse

2)     Fetal heart rate decelerations related to umbilical cord compression

3)     Change in presenting part

 

Let me give you an example.  One time I had a doctor that ruptured a patient with polyhydramnios and a high presenting part.  (That means, the baby’s head was not well engaged into the pelvis and was still “floating”.)  After the gush of water flooded the bed, the baby started to have pretty serious heart rate decelerations with every contraction related to compression of the umbilical cord.  When the doctor did a vaginal exam to check her dilation, he found that he was no longer feeling a head, but a HAND.  Since the baby was high and floating in a large amount of fluid and the head was not well engaged when he ruptured her membranes, the first thing to rush out was the baby’s hand.  The doctor was unsuccessful at moving the hand back.  And that woman, a grandmultip (G6P5) who had had FIVE previous spontaneous normal vaginal deliveries ended up with an emergency cesarean section.  And it was VERY IMPORTANT that I was in the room when all of this happened since I was the one who ended up almost single handedly assisting her into knee chest, throwing on some oxygen, and wheeling her down to the OR as the doctor rushed to scrub in.  Yes, emergencies can happen that fast.  (This one however was almost completely avoidable!!)  Please know that I am not telling this story to scare anyone.  But the LESS interventions you have, the significantly LESS chance you have of that kind of emergency happening.  And if a physician or midwife is going to take the chance with any intervention like amniotomy, it is very important that he or she has assistance from a nurse in the room. 

 

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Okay, thanks for letting me rant there for a minute.  Back to the story…

 

So after I helped Jessica clean up I offered to help her out of bed into any position she liked.  After all, it’s important to use gravity to help you and not work against you!  Jessica decided that she wanted to get up into a rocking chair.  I continued to titrate the pitocin to obtain an “adequate” contraction pattern.  Jessica’s body was actually pretty resistant to the pitocin so I ended up eventually getting all the way up to “max pit,” or 20mu/min, around 6:00pm.  Jessica was contracting about every 2 ½ -3 minutes each lasting for about 40-60 seconds.  Jessica complained most about her back pain and so we tried a variety of positions to ease this for her including using the rocking chair, standing at bedside, birthing ball, back rubs, slow dancing etc.  Jason was an excellent birth coach and the two of them really worked well together.  Jessica did not feel comfortable walking in the halls (some women prefer a bit more privacy and I can’t really blame them!) so she did a lot of pacing in the room.  Around 6:45pm, Jessica was getting really tired and asked if she could get back in bed.  We tried a few positions in bed (side lying, kneeling, etc.) but the back pain was too intense. 

 

I wished at that moment we could have gotten her into the Jacuzzi but despite what some other people might tell you, trying to continuously monitor a patient in the Jacuzzi is almost impossible, especially since there are no monitors in the tub room at my hospital so I cannot see or hear what the baby’s heart rate is doing when I am in there manually holding the monitor to her belly so the bubbles don’t knock it off.  This is yet another reason why back door inductions frustrate me.  If she was in true labor and not on pitocin, I could have done intermittent auscultation which is very compatible with using the Jacuzzi.  Some women think they can have it all (for example their induction and the Jacuzzi).  But fact of the matter is that agreeing to an unnecessary induction automatically makes a natural birth plan harder, NOT impossible, but harder. 

 

Turns out the only position that Jessica liked at that time was sitting straight up in bed, leaning forward on the squatting bar, with the foot of the bed lowered so the bed looked like a “chair.”  She was moving and breathing very well in this position with Jason and me as her coaches, and she seemed to start to drift off into “Laborland.”  At 7:00pm Dr. T came into the room and stated he was going to do a vaginal exam to check for progress.  Jessica had started to complain of some intermittent rectal pressure so I had assumed that the baby had moved down some.  Turns out she was 5cm/100% effaced/-1 station!!  “This is great!,” I said to Jessica, “You are doing such a great job!  Not only are you 5cm now but you have thinned all the way out AND you have moved the baby down a lot!!  You are doing so well!!” 

 

Both Jessica and Jason seemed excited about the progress which is great because I was afraid that Dr. T would say something annoying like “Oh bummer, you are only 5 cm.”  But the truth is that in order for your cervix to dilate you have to thin out first and therefore progress in effacement and station are also signs of great progress, not just dilation. “Do you want anything for pain?,” asked Dr. T.  “No, not yet, I want to try to go longer,” she replied.  Jessica spent the next two hours sitting straight up in bed, leaning over the squat bar, with the bed in the “chair” position.  Jason was standing beside her rubbing her lower back while I was helping her to stay focused on her breathing.  She had a couple mini “freak outs” like “I can’t do this anymore!,”  “This is it, I can’t take one more contraction!”  “How much longer is this going to be?!”  What is important to remember is that these “freak outs” are NORMAL and it doesn’t mean you are weak or a wimp.  Far from it!  Labor is one of the most intensely physical experiences of your entire life.  It is comprised of sensations that are unlike any others you have felt before.  And that is why positive encouragement is so important.  I know it is hard to see someone you love in pain but Jessica had said she did not want any pain medication or an epidural at this point so providing her with unconditional support was what was needed.

 

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A quick story…

 

When I used to run cross country in high school we would often have “distance days” were our workout consisted of running a 13-18 mile long run.  We would start right after school and often not get back until it was dusk.  Those runs were grueling especially since we lived in a very hilly town.  I remember thinking or saying things like “I can’t do this anymore!” or “No, just go on without me!”  I remember feeling so many times during those runs like I wanted to “quit” and walk.  But I knew that if I did, it was just going to take me that much longer to get home.  And one of the things that kept me going the most was the support from my teammates.  “Just run until that phone pole” then “just run to that fire hydrant” then “just run to that stop sign.”  I got through it because I took it one small stretch at a time.  When I thought about how much farther I had to go, when I thought about the whole run as a whole, the task at hand seemed overwhelming and insurmountable.  But when I took it “one phone pole at a time” I felt like I could handle it.  There was no other way to get home but to run.  And it hurt.  And the cramps in my sides made it hard to breathe.  And sometimes I would have to lean over into the woods and throw up.  Every bone and muscle ached, from my ears to my toes.  I remember my knees stinging with each footstep.  But there was no other way to get home but to run….  And when I finally crossed onto the track at the high school to run the last stretch I felt like I could do anything.  I did it! 

 

I am not trying to claim that running a long run is exactly like labor.  For one I was only running for a few hours, not hours and hours and hours.  And I knew exactly how much I had left, unlike moms in labor.  And genital pain was not involved at all!  Haha!  But the point is that a great mix of positive encouragement from my teammates, self determination, and the technique of taking it one step at a time was the reason I succeeded.  If my teammates just left me in the dust every time I said “Just go on without me!  I have to walk” then I wouldn’t have been as successful and I wouldn’t have gotten as much out of the run.  So ladies, it’s NORMAL to “freak out” a bit, which is why surrounding yourself with positive, helpful, and supportive coaches (not just “specators”) is so important, ESPECIALLY in a hospital birth.

 

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Jessica labored like this for about two more hours.  She was definitely in Laborland, kinda spacey, like she was in a trance.  At around 9:00pm Jessica said that she was feeling a lot more rectal pressure and wanted an epidural so I went out to the desk to page a resident.  Lucky me Dr. T happened to be sitting at the main desk chatting with another doctor.  I told him that Jessica would like to be checked to see how far along she was because she was considering an epidural.  He came into the room and low and behold, she was 6cm/100% effaced/ 0 station.  Woohoo!  Jessica stated she wanted the epidural so I proceeded to get things set up so that we would be ready when anesthesia came in.  I had already reviewed with her the risks and benefits of an epidural earlier on (when she was more comfortable), so now I just had to explain to her what to expect from the procedure. 

 

After setting up the room I walked out to the desk to see how long it would take anesthesia to see her.  Turns out that anesthesia was tied up in a cesarean section so Jessica would have to wait.  (Unfortunately, even in a hospital that has 24/7 anesthesia like mine, they are not always available for epidurals.  So if this is your only reason for deciding to have your baby at a high-risk hospital, I would make sure you review all of your options.  And if your only labor preparation is deciding you want an epidural, it is imperative that you prepare for the possibility of not getting one!)  When I was at the desk, I checked the orders to make sure Dr. T had written for the epidural.  And that’s when I found his progress note:

 

X/X/XXXX

2115

S: Complains of more pain, wants relief

O: Cervix 6 cm dilated, completely effaced, 0 station

     EFM shows Ctx every 3 min x 60, baseline 140, +accels, Æ decels, moderate variability

A: Active phase labor with unsatisfactory progress

P:  Anesthesia notified for epidural

     Recheck in one hour, if no significant progress, anticipate primary cesarean section for arrest of dilatation

                                                                                              Dr. T

 

 

 

I was floored.  I couldn’t believe he was basically already throwing in the towel for Jessica.  It was her first baby for goodness sakes!  Babies come in their own time!  I mean, she hadn’t even gotten the epidural yet and the pitocin has to be shut off for the epidural so by the time the “hour” was up, it would have been completely unfair to expect her to have made any “progress.”  And what does that mean anyways?  So I called him out on it:

 

Me:  “Dr. T.  You are already throwing in the towel for her!?  Why does the plan even mention a cesarean at this point?!”

 

Dr. T:  “You’re kidding right, she has only changed 2cm in the last 7 hours.”

 

Me:  “Well that’s not really true because I didn’t even get her contractions into an adequate pattern until about 6pm.  And it’s her first baby.”

 

Dr. T:  “Jeeze, you call that progress?!  I can’t be here all night you know…”

 

(YES he really did say that.  This is also the doctor that told me once to tell a multip who was 8cm and feeling pushy to “Not push” because he wanted to finish the ice cream he had just ordered with his wife and kids.  I mean, I’m all for him spending time with his kids but he was ON CALL and this was a third time mom who was feeling RECTAL PRESSURE and was 8 CM!  There is NO telling her “Don’t push!”  It’s called the fetal ejection reflex for goodness sake!  And guess what, not only did he missed the delivery, but he then chewed me and the resident out for it.  I’m not making this up…In fact I can’t make this stuff up!)

 

Me:  (getting pretty upset but trying not to scream at him)  “Are you kidding me!  She wasn’t even in labor when she got here!  If she was, you wouldn’t have started her on pitocin.  She wasn’t even in labor!  You didn’t have to be here at ALL but YOU were the one who sent her in for induction.”

 

Dr. T:  (smirking)  “Induction!  She was 4cm!”

 

Me:  “But she couldn’t feel any of her contractions!  And now you are just going to cut her without at least seeing if the epidural helps?!  This is her first baby!  This delivery has consequences for the rest of her life!”

 

I was afraid I was going to strangle him at this point so I just left the desk to go back into the room.  Anesthesia didn’t show up until 10:30pm and at 11:00 pm Penny, the night nurse, came in to take over.  I stayed until the epidural was finished and tucked her in.  The next day I got the full scoop on what happened from Penny and the patient’s chart.

 

Apparently Jessica got great relief from the epidural and slept like a rock for 2 hours.  Luckily the baby tolerated the epidural well and remained happy on the monitors. Dr. T must have fallen asleep in his call room or gotten distracted because he never came back to check her.  At 1:30am Jessica woke up feeling a lot more rectal pressure.  Penny called the resident to check her and her exam revealed she was fully dilated (HOORAY!!) but that the baby was still at a 0 station.  Since the resident was busy with other patients she agreed, per Penny’s request, to NOT call Dr. T and wake him up but rather to shut off the epidural, allowing it to wear off a bit, and use passive descent to help get the baby down more before they started pushing.  (Although Jessica was feeling more rectal pressure, a practice push revealed that she could not feel her bottom enough to push.  If she had started to push at that time, she would have just tired herself out).  Also, Penny knew that Dr. T was notorious for only “letting” patients push for about an hour (even if they can’t feel their bottom) and then if the baby isn’t out he performs a cesarean for “failure to descent.”  Phooey! 

 

One hour later at 2:30am Jessica was feeling an uncontrollable urge to push and a vaginal exam by the resident revealed that she was 10cm/100%/ +2 station!!  Yay!!  Penny said that she felt it was best not to make Jessica wait for Dr. T to rise and shine so she instructed Penny to push whenever she felt she needed too.  She said that Dr. T didn’t even make it into the room until about 10 min before Jessica pushed out her 8lb, 6oz baby boy at 3:05am after only approximately 30 minutes of pushing!!!!  The baby was also found to be in an occiput posterior position, which explains all that back pain Jessica was experiencing and perhaps the length of her labor as well.  Dr. T did cut an episiotomy but the baby delivered before he could get his hands on a vacuum J.  According to Penny, baby Christopher James nursed like a champ and stayed skin to skin with mom for almost a whole two hours! 

 

Fortunately for all those involved, Jessica and Jason’s story had a wonderful ending!  However, despite the fact that Jessica’s birth did not end in a cesarean section doesn’t mean that there were not many injustices in the way her care was managed by her birth attendant.  Stories like this always get me thinking…what if?  What if Jessica had been sent home from the office instead of sent in for a back door induction?  Would the baby have eventually turned around so that he was no longer occiput posterior?  Would her natural contractions been easier to handle and therefore would she still have opted for the epidural?  If she was not induced with pitocin and therefore not required to be on continuous monitoring, would the freedom to move around more in labor and the ability to use the Jacuzzi tub helped to alleviate her back pain if the baby stayed occiput posterior?  What if she had had a different nurse that encouraged her to get the epidural earlier on?  What if Dr. T had gotten his way and started to make the patient push before she had regained use of her legs and feeling in her bottom?  What if Dr. T had kept her membranes intact until much later in the labor?  What if Dr. T had checked her one hour after she was found to be 6cm and she hadn’t made “satisfactory progress”….would she have been given a cesarean for “failure to progress?” 

 

In summary, I would just like to say that unlike what many OBGYNs, nurses, friends, family members, moms, journalists, etc will tell you, the journey matters just as much as the outcome.  The fact is that women truly amaze me no matter how they give birth.  Whether it is a natural home birth or a scheduled cesarean section, the bottom line is that women have superpowers!  They can grow people inside of them after all!!  And my greatest wish is that all women will feel in control of the decisions regarding their birth and in the end feel empowered no matter the mode of delivery.  But as a society we have to be more conscious of how our overly medicalized maternity care system affects the thoughts, feelings, and emotions of our patients and families as well as their outcomes.

 

Don’t Let This Happen To You #24 PART 1 of 2: Jessica & Jason’s Back Door Induction April 13, 2009

Continuation of the “Injustice in Maternity Care” Series

 

Throughout my time as a labor and delivery nurse at a large urban hospital in the Northeast, I have mentally tallied up a list of patients and circumstances that make me go “WHAT!?!  Are you SERIOUS!?  Oh come ON!”  Because of this I was inspired to start the “Injustice in Maternity Care” blog series, or more appropriately the “Don’t Let This Happen to You” series.  If you are pregnant or planning on becoming pregnant, this series is dedicated to you!  If haven’t already read it, I invite you to check out the first addition to the countdown: DLTHTY #25: Sarah & John’s Unnecessary Induction

 

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There are so many things about the current state of maternity care in the United States that frustrate, infuriate, sadden, and annoy me but one particular thing that really gets my goat is the back door induction.  As you might have already read, I am a labor & delivery nurse in a large urban hospital and we are BUSY!  Although I know there are hospitals that way more deliveries a year than we do, for the capacity of our hospital, 4500 deliveries a year is almost more than we can handle with our current facility and staffing.  (By the way, 4500 deliveries a year breaks down to about 375 deliveries a month and about 12 deliveries a DAY!  (Jeeze, I am exhausted just looking at the statistics!) 

 

One way to help organize all the chaos is to have an induction book in which doctors have to schedule all of their inductions at least 24 hours in advance.  This way we have somewhat of an idea about appropriate staffing and room assignment for our patients for each day (in theory).  (The exception to this rule is the induction in which there is a documented medical reason related to either mom or baby’s health that requires an urgent delivery of the baby.  For example, severe intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) with a non-reassuring nonstress test (NST) and biophysical profile (BPP) or worsening preeclampsia.  We obviously don’t make these mom’s sign up for a spot.  They are usually a direct admit from the office to the hospital.) 

 

However, when a doctor is either lazy, anxious, rushed, or overall feels he is above the rules, he (or she) will send a patient in from the office as a direct admit to the hospital for labor when she actually is NOT in labor and will the proceed to INDUCE her under the guise of augmentation.  When providers do this, it increases the amount and acuity of our patient census and puts an unnecessary strain on our staffing which compromises the amount of individualized care we can give to our patients.  What these doctors don’t tell you is that inductions can take up to three days to complete!  If you are truly in spontaneous natural labor, even a slow labor, you won’t be in the hospital for 3 days.  Inductions take MORE time, MORE money, MORE staff, MORE resources and hence are MORE risky.  Let’s digress for a moment so that I may clarify the difference between induction and augmentation:

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Labor: Regular, noticeable, and painful contractions of the uterus that result in dilation (opening) and effacement (thinning) of the cervix.  Therefore if you are having regular uterine contractions that are noticeable or even painful but are not making any change to your cervix, it is NOT labor.  Likewise if your cervix is dilated and effaced but you are NOT having uterine contractions that are noticeable and painful then you are NOT in labor.  (Note: I have had low intervention doctors and midwives send multips (a woman who has given birth at least once) home at 4 or 5 cm if they are not having any contractions or not changing their cervix.  One particular patient I can remember was a G5P4 and was 5cm dilated when she came to the hospital.  We kept her for 4 hours but she never changed her cervix…she couldn’t even feel her irregular contractions and she was comfortable.  So she was sent home.  Two weeks later she came back 8cm dilated in hard labor and I assisted with her very quick birth.  She did amazing and the baby was happy and healthy!  Clearly, even at 5cm, she wasn’t in labor.)

 

Induction: the use of medications or other methods to start (induce) labor before the woman’s body has spontaneously begun true labor on its own.

 

Augmentation: stimulating the uterus with medications or other methods during labor that has already begun naturally to increase the frequency, duration and strength of contractions, the goal of which is to establish a pattern where there are three to five contractions in 10 minutes, each lasting more than 40 seconds. 

 

So just to be clear (and to adequately set up my story) if a woman is 4cm dilated but is not having regular, noticeable, and painful contractions that are causing cervical change she is NOT in labor.  If said woman is sent into the hospital and any interventions to stimulate contractions are started, then it is by definition considered an induction NOT an augmentation.  And if said patient was not scheduled to be admitted on such day, then it is considered a backdoor induction.   

 

Let’s continue with the story…

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It was a Friday morning before my weekend off and I came in to work at 11am as usual.  I was looking forward to the weekend since it had been a really busy week and I was exhausted.  For the first four hours of my shift, I triaged a few patients but ended up sending them all home for one reason or another.  As I was finishing up some paperwork at the desk around 1:00pm, Dr. T came off the elevator and over to the nurses station.  I overheard him telling the charge nurse that he was just at his office and was sending over a primip (a woman who has never given birth) for us to admit for labor who was 4cm dilated/50% effaced/-3 station by his exam in the office.  He then slinked towards one of our second year residents who, in my opinion, will definitely be joining the ranks of the aggressive labor management elite, and uttered, “I’m sending over a patient from the office, 4cm.  Could you break her water when she gets here and start her on pit.  I know you’re the only one who will do it.  The baby is still high.”

 

Situations like this one are exactly the reason why I shouldn’t eavesdrop!  The reason why Dr. T was concerned that “no one else” would break her water was that when a baby is at a minus 3 station and is “too high,” if the membranes are ruptured artificially the umbilical cord could slip down before the baby’s head, getting pinched between the baby’s head and the cervix, cutting off all blood flow from the placenta to the baby.  This is called a cord prolapse and it is a surgical emergency requiring an emergency cesarean section.  This emergency is very unlikely if your water breaks naturally at term during labor because typically when it happens naturally the baby’s head is well applied to the cervix which puts pressure on the bag causing it to break.  I wanted to turn around and shout at Dr. T, “If you are so concerned “no one else” will take the chance, why won’t you do it yourself?!  Is it really so wise if it is so unsafe?”  Furthermore, the thought of sending over a patient for “labor” and then immediately starting her on pitocin and breaking her water makes my head feel like its going to explode!  If she is really in labor then she does NOT NEED pitocin!  And if she “needs” pitocin, then she is NOT in labor!  This is a BACK DOOR INDUCTION and ladies, it happens all the time.  Think about it, it was a Friday and Dr. T happened to be on call that weekend.  Looks like he didn’t want to get a page over Sunday brunch that one of his patients was in labor!  AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! 

 

Sorry, I lost it there for a minute J.  But it is just these kinds of injustices that make my blood boil!  Let’s continue…

 

Come change of shift at 3pm I was patient-less since I had sent all my triages home and hence was assigned to the patient in room 9.  And guess whose patient it was!  None other than Dr. T’s “labor” patient!  Oh brother!  This was going to be an interesting night! 

 

From report I got most of the details:  Jessica was a 25 year old first time mom (G2P0) just a few days past her “due” date (40 weeks and 3 days).  Here health history was unexceptional: exercise induced asthma as a child that did not require any medications, tonsillectomy at age 7, and one miscarriage at 5 weeks two years ago.  Her pregnancy was normal, healthy, and uncomplicated.  The patient had arrived to the hospital at 1:30pm with her longtime boyfriend Jason.  Jessica’s day shift nurse had completely admitted her and started her on pitocin but because the floor was crazy busy all day, she had only gotten the pitocin up to 4mu/min and the residents had only gotten the chance to write orders and not to rupture her membranes.  (My thought = Yes!!)  [Note: For a description of how pitocin is administered check out: Don’t Let This Happen To You #25 PART 2: Sarah & John’s Unnecessary Induction].

 

Next I went into the room to meet Jessica and Jason.  Jessica was a bubbly young woman with big rosy cheeks.  Her boyfriend Jason was living proof that you can’t judge a book by its cover.  He was super funny and down to earth and very supportive of Jessica in every way, yet a bit intimidating at first because he was almost completely covered in tattoos and had multiple facial piercings J.  They looked like total opposites and yet were so perfect for each other.  We chit-chatted for awhile and really seemed to hit it off since we all had the same sense of humor.  I took the opportunity to satisfy my curiosity about how Jessica had ended up in the hospital since she seemed very comfortable the whole time we were talking.  The monitor strip revealed that she was having contractions about every 6-8 minutes but she was not even flinching as I saw them come and go on the monitor.  To gain a bit more information I started to ask some questions.  I kept the conversation light in tone, like “So tell me about your day today?” instead of “Why the heck are you here!  Run!  Run away!!”  J  Here’s our conversation:

 

Me: “So how did you end up at the office today?  Did you have a scheduled appointment or were you having contractions?

 

Jessica: “No I was feeling great!  I had a scheduled appointment and when they put me on the monitor for a non-stress test, the nurses told me that I was having contractions!  It was so crazy because I didn’t even know I was having them!  So then Dr. T decided to check me since I was contracting and I was 4 centimeters!”

 

Me: “Can you feel any of your contractions now?”

 

Jessica:  “I think so, well, am I having one now?  Wait, no, maybe now?  (Looks towards monitor) Yeah, I am having one now.

 

At this point I’m thinking: If you have to look at the monitor then the answer is no, no you are not feeling contractions!  Sometimes I turn the monitor screen off so the patients or family members can’t “contraction watch.”  J

 

Me: “So what happened next?  Did Dr. T tell you to come right over or did he say you could go home first?”

 

Jessica:  “He said we could go home first and get our stuff together but not to “dilly dally” because they were waiting for us here.  So we rushed home and grabbed our bags.  Good thing we packed last week!”

 

Me:  “Yeah, it’s great you were prepared.  What did Dr. T tell you the plan was for when you got here?”

 

Jessica: “He said that once we got here that he would break my water but they haven’t done that yet.  I guess it’s really busy today, huh?”

 

Me:  “Yeah, It’s a busy day.  Did he say anything about starting you on pitocin?”

 

Jessica:  “He mentioned that I might ‘need a little pitocin’ because my contractions weren’t in a regular pattern and were pretty far apart.”

 

Me:  “I bet it was a big surprise to you to be induced today, huh!”  (I couldn’t help myself!)

 

Jessica:  (confused)  “Well I didn’t expect to find out I was in labor today  that’s for sure!”

 

Me: “Do you guys have a written birth plan or any thing I should know about regarding your labor and birth preferences?”

 

Jessica:  “No nothing written.  Well, I wanted to try to go as natural as possible.  I don’t want any narcotics and I don’t think I want an epidural.  I mean, I’m not ruling it out, but I really want to go as naturally as possible……………I mean, I guess that’s not totally going to happen now because I am on pitocin but, well, you know…”

 

(Yes!  The “in” I’ve been waiting for! Sometimes I wish I could tape patients and then play back what they say to me to see if once they hear it back, they then realize how illogical their doctor is.  I mean sometimes I feel like a mom who has to sneak spinach into her kids’ favorite foods to trick them into eating vegetables.  I can never just come out and say my intentions, I have to play this “game” and hope they figure it out themselves.  This is something of a daily internal struggle for me.)

 

Me:  “Well that is not necessarily true because although we are limited by the fact that with the pitocin running I have to have you on the monitors, as long as I can trace the baby’s heartbeat I can help you into any position that makes you most comfortable.  Unfortunately pitocin is not a good as the “real” thing you know? What I mean is it makes contractions artificially stronger and longer than natural contractions.  But I will do my best to titrate the pitocin so that we get an effective labor pattern that both you and the baby can tolerate well.  We can all work as a team, sound good? J

 

Jessica & Jason: “Yeah sounds good!”

 

I’m sure, my savvy reader, you have already recognized why I started this post with the difference between induction and augmentation!!  The TRUTH is: If you are at term and someone has to “tell” you that you are “in labor” then you are NOT in labor!  I just feel so badly for these women!  I truly don’t think it is their fault!  I think that they put all their trust in their birth attendant and most of the time are just naïve and don’t know any better.  And I don’t say that to be patronizing, I say it out of love and concern.  And as I mentioned in the first post of this series, I don’t want to start off my first interaction with these patients by going off on a tangent about unnecessary induction because I don’t want to make them defensive, doubtful, untrusting, or upset because these emotions do not facilitate labor!

 

*Sigh* 

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Up For Next Time: Don’t Let This Happen To You #24: PART 2 of 2 

 

Read about Jessica’s labor, the birth of her baby, and Dr. T’s upsetting prediction about her birth too early in the game.

 

 

(Research for this post was aided by my trusty OB textbook from nursing school:  Maternal-Child Nursing (Second Edition) by Emily McKinney, Susan James, & Sharon Murray Ó2005)

 

Top 8 Ways to Have an Unnecessary Cesarean Section April 3, 2009

(Adapted from Top 7 Ways to Have an Unnecessary C-Section)

 

Happy April everyone!  As you may or may not be aware, the International Cesarean Awareness Network (ICAN) has declared April to be Cesarean Awareness Month.  In honor of this, I decided to share with you a website I recently found that I thought was pretty amusing. 

 

Blogger Esther Brady Crawford of faintstarlite.com recently wrote a post entitled “Top 7 Ways to Have an Unnecessary C-Section”.  Not only is it amusing (and perhaps a bit cynical) but it is also: 1) sad that it is so true and 2) very true.  I encourage you to read her original post since she gives her own hilarious explanations for each “pointer” but since I am a big research nerd, I have added my own comments to her original Top 7.  At the end of this post I have included an eighth “pointer” to the list to make it a Top 8.  Much of the research I cite in this post is from the book The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth by Henci Goer.

 

So here it goes…

 

#7  Go the hospital in the early phases of labor.

          Crawford is just plain right-on with this one!  Too many obstetricians are quick to label a mom as having “dysfunctional labor” if she does not progress at least one centimeter an hour (for first time moms) or two centimeters and hour (for multiparous moms) immediately upon arriving to the hospital.  I have even had some doctors I work with take a call from a mom at home that “sounds like she is in labor” and turn around and tell the residents to “start her on pit as soon as she gets here.”  WHAT??!!  Pam England, CNM, MA writes in her book Birthing From Within, “One advantage to laboring in the privacy of your home, with one-on-one midwifery support, is that should a problem arise that requires medical support at the hospital, you will not wonder whether your labor problems were caused by routine, unnecessary, or ill-timed hospital interventions.”

 

#6  Don’t eat or drink during a long labor.

          Goer writes that dehydration and starvation caused by restricting food/drink intake during labor causes a woman not only considerable discomfort but can also lead to fever, prolonged labor, increased use of oxytocin (aka pitocin), instrumental delivery, and a non-reassuring fetal heart rate pattern/fetal distress.  And what can all of these lead to…that’s right…a cesarean section!  (Goer, 79-83)

 

#5  Get an amniotomy too soon.

          Amniotomy (or artificially “breaking the bag of waters”) too soon can lead to umbilical cord compression/fetal distress, abnormal fetal heart rate patterns, cord prolapse (a surgical emergency where the umbilical cord slips out into the birth canal before the baby’s head), increased likelihood of maternal infection and hence a “race against the clock” to get a woman “delivered” before 24 hours is up, and lastly, a greater chance that the baby get “stuck” in a posterior (back of head toward your back) or acynclitic (head tilted off to one side) position which can stall labor and make pushing at best, difficult and at worse, unsuccessful.    Bottom line, if it ain’t broke, leave it alone!  Not obeying that rule could lead you to an unnecessary cesarean!  (Goer, 99-104)

 

#4  Accept pitocin to induce or stimulate contractions.

          The use of oxytocin (pitocin) for labor augmentation (aka “revving up a slow labor”) or induction (aka artificially starting a labor that hasn’t started on its own) has its own risks.  Although oxytocin is quite effective at stimulating contractions, it often makes contractions stronger and longer than natural contractions, can cause too many contractions too close together (aka uterine tachysystole or hyperstimulation) which can lead to fetal distress, can double the chances of a baby being born in poor condition, and eventually can lead you to the operating room!  (Goer, 65)

 

#3  Request an epidural.

          Research has shown that epidurals 1) interfere with a mother’s natural release of labor hormones which can in turn (among other things) slow or stop her progress of labor, 2) increase her chances of needing pitocin augmentation for said slowed labor, 3) numb her pelvic floor muscles, which are important in guiding her baby’s head into a good position for birth , 4) can cause maternal fever than can be mistaken as a sign of infection, 5) can cause a significant drop in her blood pressure which can interfere with how much blood supply is getting to the baby and can lead to profoundly negative effects on the baby’s heart rate, 6) significantly impair in her ability to push her baby out effectively.  All of these side effects/risks, as research has shown can, and often does, lead to a cesarean section.  (See “Epidurals: risks and concerns for mother and baby” by Dr Sarah J. Buckley)

 

#2  Accept hospital staff’s comments on lack of progress without challenge.

          In my opinion, nothing is more detrimental to a woman’s labor progress and ultimately her birth experience than negativity in the labor room from labor & birth attendants, especially the people who are the “professionals” like obstetricians, midwives, and nurses.  As Marsden Wagner, MD, MS writes in his book Born in the USA, fear and anxiety stop labor.  And giving a woman the impression that she is “failing” can lead to a helpless and hopeless attitude and eventually a cascade of interventions that might very well lead to a cesarean section. 

 

#1 Just ask!

          Believe it or not, there are some OBGYNs out there that will agree to perform a cesarean section on a first time mom without medical indication.  Goer writes, “Popping up lately in the medical literature are arguments that women should be able to have first cesareans for the asking as well.  Again, this is presented as a freedom of choice issue.  But how much real freedom do women have in a culture that portrays labor as torture and C-sections as a ‘no muss, no fuss’ option?”  Goer states that the obstetric belief that choosing between a cesarean and vaginal birth is like choosing “between chocolate and vanilla” is really about six things: money, impatience, convenience, peer pressure, hospital culture, and defensive medicine.  What I find even more disturbing than this, however, is that women who do desire to avoid a cesarean and plan for a vaginal birth after a cesarean (VBAC) are finding themselves with less choice and opportunity to do so in more and more communities around this country as more and more obstetricians are refusing to attend VBACs and hospitals are either banning or placing de facto bans on VBACs.  

 

And lastly here is my own addition…number 8!

 

#8  Agree to a labor induction without medical indication.

          Induction of labor comes with risks and the BIGGEST risk is the risk of cesarean section.  When induction of labor is done for a medical reason, either related to mom or baby, and the risks of continuing the pregnancy are greater than the risks of induction, then this is the only time when labor induction is appropriate and warranted.  But when a woman agrees to a labor induction without any medical reason, then she is putting herself at risk for an unnecessary cesarean section, plain and simple. 

          Many obstetricians I work with claim that all the “elective” labor inductions (that is, inductions without medical indication) are because the woman “demands” it.  And don’t get me wrong, there are some women out there who are a bit mislead.  But all to often a woman shows up for a labor induction and it is overwhelmingly obvious that she: 1) wasn’t fully explained both the benefits AND risks of labor induction, 2) wasn’t told that labor induction can take up to three days to complete, 3) wasn’t told that comfort measures like using a jacuzzi tub or shower, walking, using the birthing ball, eating, drinking, and general freedom of movement are MAJORLY restricted during labor induction either because of hospital policy, obstetrician’s philosophy, or the requirement of continuous external fetal monitoring, 4) didn’t realize she had the option to say NO.

 

So there you have it, the Top 8 ways to have an unnecessary cesarean section.  I wish it wasn’t true but unfortunately it IS!

 

In closing I would like to leave you with one of my favorite quotes:

 

“We have a secret in our culture, and it’s not that birth is painful; it’s that women are strong.” ~ Laura Stavoe Harm

         

 

 
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