“It Happens in the United States” – Have you read it?

iStock + Thinkstock
iStock + Thinkstock

In a recent article for The Huffington PostRN and blogger Shelly Lopez Gray talks about one of the most difficult parts of being a labor and delivery nurse—witnessing a mother die after childbirth. It’s a tough topic, but a reality we know is shared by all labor and delivery nurses. Check out some of the article’s powerful quotes below and share your own experiences in the comments.

Here are some excerpts from the article:

No one expects a mother to die from childbirth. But it happens, and it happens far too often, even here in the United States. Every day, nurses put on their scrubs and go to work not knowing what their day is going to be like, what assignment they might get or who will walk through the door. As labor nurses, we hope for the Holy Grail — a woman in active labor who we could almost bet every dollar in our bank account will deliver easily and quickly and will present us with a pink and screaming baby. There is a reason we love people who come to us in active labor. Their labor is usually quick and uncomplicated, and the process usually ends with everything we work so hard for — a mom and baby who are both happy and healthy. But that isn’t this story.

A sobering story:

I was sitting at the nurse’s station when I heard a bunch of noise at the end of the hall. On a labor unit, we frequently hear people screaming, and it doesn’t even make us blink. But when it’s an emergency, somehow, everyone just knows. I ran towards the sound. When I walked into the room, a mother was lying there, her legs still in stirrups. Her head was turned towards the side, so I could see her face as soon as I walked through the door. I had only been a nurse for about a year, but I knew immediately we were in trouble. The patient’s eyes were rolling into the back of her head and I could literally hear the blood hitting the floor beneath her… A scrub tech ran out of the room to open up the OR. The doctor sat in front of the patient’s open legs, fervently trying to find the source of the bleed. With shaking hands, I managed to place another IV. Someone ushered her family members out of the room. Someone took the baby to the nursery. And before I knew it, the patient had been transferred in the bed to the OR, and I was left alone in an empty room.

A call to action:

That was not my last experience with a maternal death. And I’ve witnessed countless close calls, as we all have. If you are a nurse, know that we have to help these mothers, because they are coming in more and more sick, with more and more problems, and this is just not going away. We don’t talk about all of those close calls, the mothers who go into DIC or the ones who end up with a hysterectomy. 

How to help going forward:

If you are a mother, know that this is not something that your physician or your nurse can fix alone. We all have to start working together to make sure that you and your baby leave happy, and healthy, and together. No one thinks that this is something that could happen to them. No nurse thinks this is going to be her patient. But it can happen, it does happen, and it is happening every day in the United States. Talk to your doctor about being healthy during your pregnancy. Unless there is a medical reason to be induced, wait for labor to start on its own. 

Read the rest of the article here, and then tell us: Are you a labor and delivery nurse? How do you deal with tough days on the job? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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