3 Surprising Things That Are Changing How Women Deliver Babies

February 14, 2018 Samantha Abraham, BSN RN


Expectant moms have more options than ever for their birth plans.

Women have been giving birth since the dawn of humanity, but as times change, so does the labor and delivery process. The way women give birth today looks much different than the way their mothers or grandmothers did, and St. Joseph Health stays at the forefront by offering women the latest in labor and delivery services. Here are three methods moms can incorporate into their birth plans:

Fetal Monitoring

It used to be that to track the fetal heart rate, laboring moms had to be hooked up to monitors with unwieldy cords that kept them attached to the monitor. Now there are systems that make things much easier for mom—and her medical team.

“Traditional monitors kept moms in bed, attached to the monitor which is not only uncomfortable but can impede the labor progress,” says Samantha Abraham, BSN RN, Maternal and Infant Care Manager at Queen of the Valley Medical Center. “Every time the mom would turn from one side to another, the nurse would have to come in and reposition the monitor around her belly, which isn’t very restful when a mom is trying to get some much needed rest before she has her baby. Because of the multiple wires coming from the monitoring machine, it also poses a safety risk for nurses to trip on a wire. With these newer systems, a mom doesn’t have to be attached to the monitor while laboring in bed.”

Queen of the Valley offers two types of portable fetal monitoring systems. The Mini Telemetry System is light enough that patients carry the heart rate and contraction transmitter with them like a purse on their shoulders. “Moms can walk around with their support person and be mobile during the birthing process. They are centrally monitored so they can roam the hallways and pause during a contraction, holding on to the attached hand rails placed in the hallways, which feels better than going through a contraction lying in bed,” Abraham says.

The newest addition is the Novii Wireless Patch System. “There are four little electrodes and a battery pack that sticks to the mom’s belly,” Abraham says. “There are no wires that are attached to the monitoring machine, so women really have the freedom to move around. Also, as long as the transmitter doesn’t get wet, women can labor in the shower or in the bathtub.”

Nitrous Oxide

No, the use of “laughing gas” won’t cause women to giggle uncontrollably during labor. What nitrous oxide can do is offer some pain relief and a feeling of relaxation during contractions, says Karen Lewis, MSN, RNC-OB, the area director of obstetrics at Redwood Memorial Hospital.

“Nitrous oxide was often used during labor in the United States before epidurals became popular, and it is still commonly used in Europe today,” Lewis says. “It’s coming back into use here as another option for moms that offers them some flexibility instead of, or even in addition to, epidurals."

Lewis says her department uses a combination of 50 percent nitrous oxide and 50 percent oxygen for comfort in labor. "This blend allows a mom and baby to receive plenty of oxygen while experiencing the anxiety relief and pain relief offered by nitrous use," she says. "The delivery system is portable and the gas is self-administered. That means that the gas only flows when the mom breathes into the mask. She has complete control over how often she receives the gas, and the duration of time she uses it."

Should a mom decide she no longer needs the nitrous during labor, she can stop using it, and the effects are completely gone after about three full breaths of room air, Lewis says. She also adds that the nitrous does not have any negative effects on the baby.

"Nitrous is often used in place of IV pain medications or epidural, although all of these methods can be used individually during labor at different stages if the woman so chooses," Lewis says. "Nitrous is the only routinely ordered analgesia that also helps with anxiety, and can alleviate the stress of labor, IV starts and post-delivery repairs.”

Gentle C-Section

A gentle C-section makes the surgical procedure seem not quite so, well, surgical.

“All the proper safeguards are maintained during a gentle C-section, but it also provides that same bonding moment women would get during a vaginal delivery. Instead of putting the baby in a warmer as in the past, we put the baby on the mother’s chest so they can have skin-to-skin contact, and even breastfeed, immediately after the birth,” Abraham says. This is almost always possible unless the baby warrants some extra monitoring after birth; but, as soon as possible, both parents are provided with skin-to-skin contact with their baby, and evidence shows such contact leads to lifelong benefits.

Abraham says more and more prospective parents are asking about practices such as these when it comes to labor and delivery. “Most of them are researching their options and figuring out what they want. Parents are very involved and want to take charge of the birth experience, and we help make that happen.”

Are you a soon-to-be parent looking for an obstetrician or pediatrician? Visit our Find a Doctor page.

For more great articles on labor and delivery topics, check out:

Birth plans


Specialized maternity care

Scheduled C-sections

Vaginal births after cesareans (VBAC)

This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions


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