Learning About Hospital Procedures

By Louise Hanvey, BN, MHA on April 09, 2008
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 and used to give medication or to give/take blood.

Intravenous also:
  • Gives a woman energy if she has been in labour 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.

Amniotomy  

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

An amniotomy:
  • Is used to start or strengthen labour.
  • Can increase the chance of infection.
  • Can make contractions feel uncomfortably strong and harder to control.

Pitocin

Pitocin (also called syntocinon) is a manmade drug that is similar to a natural hormone that causes labour contractions.

Pitocin:
  • 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.
  • Is used to stimulate labour if contractions are not strong enough for the cervix to dilate.

Episiotomy 

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

An episiotomy:
  • Can prevent stress on the baby’s head.
  • Is painful and takes time to heal.

Stirrups   

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

Stirrups:
  • Can be uncomfortable.
  • Most women are more comfortable giving birth on a bed in a semi-sitting position or on their side.

Electronic Fetal Monitoring

This is an external monitor that records contractions and the baby's heartbeat through two discs strapped to the mother's abdomen.

EFM 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 EFM 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.
  • Restricts movement.
  • In regular, low-risk situations, a nurse can listen to the baby’s heartbeat with a special stethoscope, a fetoscope.



By Louise Hanvey, BN, MHA| April 09, 2008

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