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Birth Decisions: Common Hospital Procedures

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In today’s hospital birth setting, modern technology is used to help monitor the health of mothers and babies.
Here are some common procedures:

Intravenous (IV)

Intravenous is when a liquid is flowed into a vein in your hand or arm. Intravenous is often used to give medication or to give or to take blood. It is also used to maintain a balance in your body’s fluids.

Intravenous also:

  • Gives a woman energy if she has been in labour for a long time without eating or drinking.
  • Is unnecessary in normal labour unless a woman has been in labour for a long time, has lost a lot of fluid or has had regional anesthesia.
  • Can be uncomfortable and restrict movement.


An amniotomy is a procedure in which the bag or sac of water around the baby in your womb is broken artificially.

An amniotomy:

  • Is used to start or to strengthen labour.
  • Can make labour more efficient by increasing the pressure of the baby’s head against the opening of the uterus.
  • Can increase the chance of infection.
  • Can make contractions feel uncomfortably strong and harder to control.
  • Is one way to speed up labour. Labour can also be stimulated to progress through changing birth positions and by walking around.


Pitocin (also called syntocinon) is a man-made (synthetic) drug that is similar to a natural hormone which causes labour contractions.


  • Is used to start labour if the baby is overdue, if the pregnancy is considered high-risk, or if the membranes have ruptured for some time. (In most cases, birth occurs within 24 hours of the rupturing of the membranes.)
  • Is used to stimulate labour if contractions are not strong enough to cause the cervix to dilate (open or widen).
  • Will make you feel stronger contractions.
  • Makes other medical procedures necessary, such as intravenous and use of an electronic fetal monitor.


An episiotomy is a procedure in which an incision or cut is made in the perineum (the area between a womans vagina and anus) to widen the vaginal opening.

An episiotomy:

  • Can prevent stress on the baby’s head.
  • Widens the opening if forceps are used (although forceps can be used without an episiotomy).
  • Is painful and takes time to heal.


Stirrups can be used to support the mothers legs and feet in an elevated, open position during the later stages of labour and birth.


  • Can be uncomfortable and awkward.
  • Most women are more comfortable giving birth on a bed in a semi-sitting position or on their side. (These positions make it difficult to perform an episiotomy).

Electronic Fetal Monitoring

This is an external monitor which records uterine contractions and the baby’s heartbeat through two discs strapped to the mothers abdomen.

Electronic fetal monitoring is important for some high-risk pregnancies in which there is concern about the baby’s heartbeat (fetal distress), when labour is induced or when epidural anesthesia is used:

  • There is also an internal electronic fetal monitor with two heads; one attached to the inside of the uterus to measure contractions and the other attached to the baby’s head to monitor heartbeat.
  • The monitor does restrict movement.
  • In normal, low-risk situations, a nurse can listen to the baby’s heartbeat with a special stethoscope called a fetoscope. EX

a man carrying two children

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