To ensure that your labor and delivery experience is as positive as possible, take a little preview tour of what to expect, right from the comfort of your own room.
The Nurses' Station. The first stop you'll make on your journey to baby town will most likely be the nurses' station. If you come into the hospital through the emergency room, be prepared to take a wheelchair up to the OB floor; otherwise, you'll be directed to the floor on your own and will check in at the nurses' station. The nurse or clerk at the desk will most likely ask you a few preliminary questions, such as your symptoms, your doctor, your due date, and if you have any allergies or are taking any medications.
Triage. Before you're admitted (and unless you're clearly about to deliver a baby), a nurse will evaluate you in the triage room to assess your condition and what stage of labor (if any) you're in. You'll have to change into a gown and be hooked up to a fetal monitor, which will track your baby's heart rate and your contraction pattern. The nurse will also check your vital signs, get a brief health history on you and your pregnancy, and check your cervical dilation as appropriate.
Labor and Delivery Room. Once you're in active labor and a doctor officially admits you as a laboring patient, a nurse will help settle you into your labor and delivery room. In most hospitals and birth centers, the rooms are all-in-one labor, delivery, and postpartum suites, meaning you and your baby won't have to leave the room for care. "The hospitals do the most as they possibly can to make the room as comfortable and homelike as possible," says Tina Alessi, a certified nurse-midwife with Morristown Medical Center in Morristown, New Jersey. Some features of your room that are unique to labor and delivery include:
A successful birth is generally one where you, as the patient and as the mother, feel the most comfortable, so be sure to make it a priority to take a childbirth education class or schedule a tour of your birthing suite to familiarize yourself with the labor and delivery environment. Ask questions. And remember -- this is your birth experience, so make it the best one for you.
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