When Your Labor And Delivery Don’t Go As Planned

Why it's important to communicate your wishes and expectations to your doctors and delivery staff.

Having a birth plan is an excellent way to feel prepared. Communicating your wishes for childbirth to your husband, partner, and healthcare team is equally important.

While exploring your goals for your labor and delivery may bring feelings of empowerment on your journey to motherhood, as I learned, it doesn't come with a written guarantee.

My first pregnancy was considered high risk for various reasons. Monitored by the Maternal-Fetal Medicine group, we had a detailed plan as well as a contingency plan after I woke up bleeding when I was 30 weeks pregnant. Ultimately, we had to go with version 3.0 of a birthing plan, including weeks of bed rest leading up to a planned delivery.

While it wasn't how I imagined the birth of my first child, all that mattered was that I had a healthy baby and I'd be able to take care of him. That made us both very lucky and grateful.

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I had a medically necessary c-section that was scheduled. With lots of plans swirling in my head, we drove up the east side of Manhattan early in the morning and checked into the labor and delivery unit at Lenox Hill Hospital. I was having contractions, but never actually got the chance to "be in labor". Prepped and ready, it was an incredibly strange feeling to walk into an operating room, voluntarily.

With all our grand plans, my son was born healthy, and although it wasn't my personal "ideal" delivery, none of that mattered.

I, on the other hand, had an issue shortly after his delivery and hemorrhaged.

Completely conscious and aware of what was going from my experience as a nurse, I knew I was in skillful hands but became worried when they turned off the music in the Operating Room and things got serious. Thankfully, I stabilized and was taken over to the recovery room.

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I was well taken care of by my labor and delivery nurses who were paying close attention to my vital signs in recovery. My anesthesiologist who had administered my spinal block even came by to check on me, but this is the point in my story where I'll emphasize my key point when labor and delivery don't go as planned; one must adapt.

With a high-risk pregnancy, I thought my OB and I had communicated quite a bit, but I learned that we had left out some important talking points such as how she managed complications.

I had lost so much blood due to the intraoperative hemorrhage, that it was significantly impairing my recovery and milk supply. My OB wanted to see if I'd recuperate on my own, but the nurses, lactation consultant, and son's pediatrician grew concerned that I'd need blood transfusions to regain strength.

I'd see women walking the halls to the newborn nursery, but I was so weak that the nurses didn't even attempt to get me out of bed for two days. Finally, on my third day in the postpartum unit, in consult with Maternal-Fetal specialists, nurses, and my son's pediatrician, it was determined that receiving blood transfusions was the only way I'd be able to heal safely and care for my son.

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My OB was initially dismissive, but grew frustrated, as if it was a burden to have to deal with postpartum complications. Not only was I disappointed in my labor and delivery experience and myself, but I felt hurt and shame that I didn't do better.

Looking back now, I realize that none of this was my fault; it was a combination of exhaustion and hormones that led me to feel so defeated.

If I had known how my OB would have handled my issues, I would have chosen a different healthcare provider. Upon receiving two blood transfusions, I thankfully was able to leave the hospital with my healthy baby boy.

I share my story not to cause worry and fear that something unexpected may happen during labor and delivery, but to spotlight two important points on birthing plans.

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  1. It's so important to find a healthcare provider that fits your needs and will support you in your decisions.
  2. Don't be hard on yourself if your labor and delivery just don’t go as planned.

The reality is that it helps to acknowledge and be ready to alter your birthing plan if circumstances necessitate a change, especially if it means achieving a good outcome for the health of you and your baby.

Just as we adapt as parents to the needs of baby, as every infant is truly unique, the same could be said about our labor and delivery experiences. Birthing plans can vary depending on individual preferences, but if it doesn't go as planned, remember to focus on what is ultimately most important; bringing home a healthy baby.

We would love to hear if your labor and delivery went as planned. If something unexpected happened, how did you handle it?

Linda Scruggs

Linda Scruggs

Linda Scruggs RN, BSN serves as a resource for parents in the digital space, creating helpful health and wellness content. She has specialized for over 12 years in reproductive medicine, and family and women's health as a nurse. A mom of two young children, her work can be seen on her own blog via her site, lindascruggs.com, as a contributor to The Huffington Post, and created the patient education program in one of the top fertility centers in the country. Linda is all about empowerment in motherhood and would love to connect.

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