The delivery room can be a stressful place when you’re in labor and so it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with it before you are actually in there giving birth. This includes knowing about the tools that the doctors and nurses are using. Below are some examples of delivery room tools that you may come across during your labor. Being familiar with them might help you mentally prepare for delivery.
An amniotic hook is a sterile plastic hook and may look like a long crochet hook or it may be a smaller hook which is attached to the finger of a sterile glove. An amniotic hook is used to rupture your membranes when your labor has either stalled or hasn’t started. To rupture your amniotic sac, the amniotic hook is inserted into your vagina and is used to pull gently on the amniotic sac until the sac ruptures. Fortunately, this is usually not painful although you may initially feel a large gush of fluid. You might still feel some leaking for the rest of your labor, particularly after a strong contraction, as the uterus keeps producing amniotic fluid right up until the birth of the baby.
Forceps are a surgical instrument that looks like a pair of tongs and during surgery they are used for grabbing, manoeuvering, or removing various things within or from the body. During labor, obstetric forceps are used to assist the delivery of the baby and are an alternative to the ventouse (suction cup) method. Obstetric forceps consist of two branches that wrap around the head of the baby firmly, and not tightly. There are two main types – short and long. Short forceps are used for a baby that has descended quite far down the birth canal and long forceps are used for babies that are further up the birth canal.
Advantages of forceps include:
- Avoidance of C-section
- Decrease in delivery time
- Able to be used for babies with cephalic presentation (the baby is in a longitudinal position and the head enters the pelvis first)
- Risk of bruising, deformation, nerve damage, or rectovaginal fistula
- Risk of damage to the baby’s eyes (rupture of Descemet’s membrane)
- Possible skull fractures
- Potential for cervical cord injury
A hemostat is a surgical tool that is used to stop bleeding by clamping the blood vessel. Following clamping by the hemostat, the blood vessel will usually be tied to permanentlly prevent bleeding. As well preventing possible bleeding, following the birth of your baby a hemostat will be used to clamp the umbilical cord. The hemostat looks a lot like a pair of scissors and the earliest known hemostat dates back to 1500 BC.
A scalpel is a small and very sharply bladed instrument that is used for surgery, dissection, and arts and crafts. Surgical scalpels consist of a handle plus a disposable blade. However, unless you are getting a ceserean section, you are unlikely to see this instrument in the delivery room.
There will usually be a couple of different pairs of scissors in the delivery room. One will be used to cut your baby’s umbilical cord and the other will be used to perform an episotomy – an incision in the perineum which helps the baby fit through. These days episotomies are relatively uncommon and are usually only used in emergency situations such as when the fetus is distressed and needs to come out quickly.
You are probably familiar with a speculum if you, like most women, have undergone a gynecological exam. It consists of a hollow cylinder with a rounded end that is divided into two hinged parts, somewhat like the beak of a duck. The speculum is inserted into the vagina to dilate it for examination of the vagina and cervix. It is used to open your vagina and during delivery a doctor will use it to get a better look at your cervix in order to see how dilation and effacement are progressing.
Sponge holders are ringed tools that look a bit like forceps and they are used to grip extremely absorbent sponges. The sponges are applied under pressure and are used to keep any bleeding during delivery under control.
A vacuum has a similar function to forceps – it helps to bring your baby out of the vagina if you are having a difficult time laboring or pushing your baby out. The suction on the vacuum sticks to your baby’s head and if you are pushing for an extended period of time your baby may come out with quite a cone-shaped head. But don’t be alarmed! It will go back to a normal shape after a week or two. Devices like vacuums and forceps simply assist in your delivery and aren’t able to actually remove the baby from the birthing canal by themselves. You will still need to gently push in order for your baby to be born.