Working Moms-to-Be: Preparing for the Hospital

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How to Recognize True Labor: Questions and Answers
  1. Your "bag of waters" breaks—The 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.

  2. A "show" appears—Either 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.

  3. Regular contractions begin—Labor 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 her—probably 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.

Strategies for Relieving Labor Discomfort on the Job
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.

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© 2005 by Marla Schram Schwartz. Excerpted from The Working Woman's Baby Planner with permission of its publisher, Sourcebooks, Inc.

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