10 Things Your Labor Nurse Wishes You Knew

by, Shelly Lopez Gray, MSN, RNC, IBCLC

  1. No one wants you to have the birth you want more than we do. Except maybe you, of course… We want to support you to stay healthy and have a healthy baby. If you end up with an unexpected birth experience, we mourn the loss of the idealized birth with you, and are here to help the experience you have be the best possible.
  2. Most providers will not stay with you during labor. Many times when a woman is admitted, she’ll ask when her provider is coming. Providers have busy offices to keep up with and demanding surgical schedules. Your nurse will be the one that stays by your side. Your provider will check in on you frequently and we give them continuous updates throughout your labor.
  3. We will not remember what your stretch marks looked like, how much cellulite you had, or what your vagina looked like once we walk out of your room. Guaranteed.
  4. Labor is painful. Everyone thinks their labor is different than everyone else’s, that no one could have labor pains as bad as yours. But the truth is, labor hurts for (almost) everyone. The best thing you can do is take prenatal education classes so you know what to expect. A lot of fear and pain comes from the anxiety of not knowing.
  5. Educate yourself on the benefits of breastfeeding. By now, everyone should know that there are a million and one reasons to breastfeed. There is so much evidence out there that supports all of the benefits of breastfeeding. No one comes to the hospital with a plan to breastfeed thinking that they may not be successful. So educate yourself prior to having your baby. Know what the most common problems are, success strategies and what to expect the first few weeks. Commit yourself to breastfeeding your baby!
  6. Designate someone as your photographer. Your partner will be caught up in the moment. They’ll probably forget all about the camera. Before you go into labor, designate someone as your personal photographer or hire a professional birth photographer. You will not remember the way your partner looked at you. You may not remember how your partner looked at your baby for the first time. You want to make sure you’re able to look back and remember all of the little details you may later forget.
  7. Talk to your provider. Your doctor and your midwife work for you . It’s a privilege that you’re allowing them to be a part of the birth of your baby. Don’t forget that. Discuss in advance things you would like, and ask questions. You want to know early in your pregnancy if you picked a provider who you aren’t comfortable with so you can change providers if you need to. No question is too silly. Trust me; they’ve heard it all before!
  8. Don’t be afraid to speak up. Frequently, women are admitted to the hospital and they feel as if they have no say in the care that is provided. But you can speak up! You have the right to ask questions, to get those questions answered, and you have the right to say no.
  9. Don’t get induced unless you have a medical reason. Even if your back hurts, and you have trouble sleeping at night, and you’re going to the bathroom 500 times a day, remember that your baby is baking in there! Every minute matters. So find methods to distract you if you’re very uncomfortable, and aim to go the full 40!
  10. Take it all in and cherish the moments. Every day, nurses take care of women who can’t get pregnant, who can’t stay pregnant and we care for women who will not get to take their baby home after delivery. Having a healthy baby is a lifelong, priceless gift. Cherish every moment, because before you know it, the toddler playing with your car keys will be the 16 year old asking to borrow your car.

12 thoughts on “10 Things Your Labor Nurse Wishes You Knew

  1. Charlene Hamilton says:

    It is a well thought out list, and good advice… but I don’t think it went far enough with #2- No, their provider won’t be in with them for labor. But your nurse won’t be the one “staying by your side” either- even if she (or he!) would dearly love to. Odds are that your nurse will be caring for multiple other women at the same time, and will only be checking in with you at intervals, or when monitors indicate a change that needs evaluated.

    Even though nurses know how much the data supports having continuous trained support in labor, it just isn’t a service they can provide! This is why doulas are so important, to provide that continuity when your nurse has to be with someone else, or a shift change happens, or any of the other reasons that keep nurses hopping for patient to patient.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Nic says:

    I loved your article except the pain part. I’m a HypnoBirthing Teacher and my parents rarely experience any pain whatsoever. I think it’s good to educate parents in the right way so they have a beautiful, empowering birth experience and bring their babies into the world in a natural, calm and confident way. Thanks. Nic.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. astrid says:

    I find the tone of this piece is rather patronizing. Especially: 4. No matter how much you educate yourself, the truth is you cannot possibly conceive how painful labor will be until you are there. 5. Also, not everyone will be able to breastfeed regardless of their desire to do so. Others may choose not to breastfeed for other reasons, and really, it is “NUNYA”. Stop TELLING women how or how not to react. Beyond informing them to educate themselves as much as possible, the rest is up to them to decide for themselves.


    • Janinne says:

      As a very old L&D nurse who formula fed, hybrid formula/breastfed and exclusively breastfed I get all 3 viewpoints. However, there are very very few medical reasons that contraindicate Breasfeeding and yes you really “should” try to breasted, even if it is only for the first 6 weeks until they get their shots – the same way you really “should” take insulin if you are a DM1. It is medical advice given with wrong encouragement from your provider with the desire for the best outcome for mom and baby. It is not a moral judgement.


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