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Working Moms-to-Be: Preparing for the Hospital
Find out in advance the items the hospital supplies and those you must provide. A hospital staff member or your childbirth educator should have the answers. Then make these preparations:
What to Do If Labor Starts at Work
- Start packing a small suitcase for the hospital after your eighth month. Keep a second suitcase at work or carry one in the car. Use this checklist provided to help you remember everything. Leave jewelry and other valuables at home.
- Keep your cell phone with you at all times, and bring your phone charger with you to work. Have your partner and other emergency contacts listed in your speed-dial/"favorites" for easy access to their phone numbers.
- Keep at least a quarter tank of gas in your car at all times.
- Keep money for tolls in your car.
- Keep the phone number of a twenty-four-hour taxi service in your cell phone, at your desk, and at home, just in case.
- Rehearse your route to the hospital and an alternate in case of traffic problems with your designated driver. Get a sense of the timing, especially at lunch hour and rush hour when traffic may be heavy.
- Know which hospital door to enter and what route to take to the maternity area. When childbirth is imminent, you don't want to be wandering around lost in a big hospital.
Most first labors last for many hours so there shouldn't be an immediate need for you to rush off to the hospital. Call your spouse and/or labor coach to pick you up from work and take you home where you'll be more comfortable while laboring. If you're not feeling well, find a quiet, private place to rest while a trusted coworker makes the call, informs your boss/supervisor about your situation, and perhaps even stays with you until your ride arrives. Of course, if you are beginning to deliver, or feel that you're experiencing a medical emergency (sudden bleeding, faintness, or excruciating pain), you should call your doctor, 911, or a private ambulance service immediately.
In the early stages of labor, contractions will last about thirty seconds, building up to ninety seconds or even longer at the end of the first stage. You may also feel the following:
How to Recognize True Labor: Questions and Answers
- Your baby droppingAs your baby moves downward and forward, your abdominal pressure will lessen and breathing will be easier. This is called "dropping" or "lightening." It may occur at any time in the last four weeks but usually doesn't happen until labor starts. Now the pressure will be on your bladder. You can expect frequent urination, shooting pains down your legs, and an increase in vaginal discharge.
- False contractionsShort, irregular spasms, called Braxton Hicks contractions, may occur in late pregnancy. They may be stopped with a change of activity; for example, shifting from standing to sitting down. Because the best way to keep your mind off these false contractions is to keep busy, the working woman has an advantage. Try not to worry unduly or let nervousness drive you to the hospital prematurely.
- Premenstrual-like symptomsCramps, pressure on your rectum, and wanting to empty your bladder and bowels are early signs that labor is about to begin.
Strategies for Relieving Labor Discomfort on the Job
- Your "bag of waters" breaksThe bag of amniotic fluid that cradles your baby may rupture at any time during labor. It might be small dribbles of fluid or a sudden flood. Don't confuse this with small gushes of urine when you sneeze or cough.
What should you do?
Use a sanitary napkin (keep one handy at work and in your car) to catch the flow, and call your doctor, birth attendant, and/or labor coach. Alert your doctor, birth attendant, and/or labor coach that you're ready to go to the hospital because there is always a risk of infection even when contractions are not present.
- A "show" appearsEither before or during labor, you'll pass a plug of thick, blood-stained mucus. Labor pains may begin within forty-eight to seventy-two hours after its appearance.
What should you do?
Wait until regularly spaced pains begin in your abdomen or back (indicating a back labor), or your water breaks, before calling your doctor or midwife.
- Regular contractions beginLabor pains feel like persistent bad menstrual cramps, a dull backache, or shooting pains in your legs. They should be stronger and more frequent as time passes and each one should last for at least forty-five seconds.
What should you do?
Ask a nearby coworker to help you time regular contractions (once every fifteen to twenty minutes) jotting down the time each one begins and ends. Follow your physicians directions for when to call him or herprobably when your contractions are ten minutes apart and last forty seconds or more. If you wont have time to go home first, or have your designated driver meet you at work because you're actively in labor, notify your boss that your labor has begun, and ask a close coworker to drive you directly to the hospital.
Depending on how much privacy you have, use the following techniques to help you stay relaxed until it's time to leave for the hospital:
- Kneel with your legs apart, upper body relaxing against pillows or a pile of newspapers. You want your baby to move down so keep your torso upright as much as possible. Relax to a sitting position between contractions. If you find it necessary to lie down, lie on your side, not your back, with pillows supporting your head and upper thighs.
- Place one cushion on the seat of a chair and another against the back while you sit facing the back of the chair, resting your head on your arms.
- Urinate often to reduce the pressure on your uterus and your bladder.
- Walking the aisles and corridors of your building will strengthen the contractions and speed up a sluggish labor.
- During a contraction, look at a fixed spot, or recite a poem, or say a prayer if you're so inclined, to take your mind off yourself. Concentrate on getting through one contraction at a time.
- Breathe deeply and evenly at the beginning of a contraction and at the end, inhaling through your nostrils and exhaling through your mouth maintaining a steady rhythm. Limit shallow breathing to avoid dizziness.
- If the contractions are accompanied by a strong urge to push, it's a sign that the second stage of labor is beginning. Or, you may feel as if you have to have a bowel movement. Call for your designated driver to get your hospital bag and leave for the hospital as soon as possible. In the meantime, during a contraction, take two short inhalations followed by one long exhalation; that is, say, ha, ha, blow. Then kneel down, lean forward, rest your head in your arms, and stick your bottom in the air. This will make pushing more difficult and reduce the urge. Breathe out slowly when it fades.
- Avoid food and drink during labor to reduce the chances of vomiting. If you must have something, stick to light, easily digested carbohydrate foods, such as bread, fruit, rice and pasta; and light protein foods, such as cheese and yogurt.
- Overcome nausea between contractions with small sips of cool water, or slowly eat dry toast and crackers. Keep frozen cranberry or grape juice in the office refrigerator. Crushed ice made from these juices or plain ice helps to ward off nausea.
© 2005 by Marla Schram Schwartz. Excerpted from The Working Woman's Baby Planner with permission of its publisher, Sourcebooks, Inc.
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