Every pregnant mom wants to keep her baby healthy and, sometimes, this means she needs to stay in the hospital before she is ready to give birth. This is called antepartum hospitalization. I recently spoke with Catherine Purser, Clinical Supervisor for labor and delivery at Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center, to gather information (and some reassuring words) to help guide you should you find yourself hospitalized for some time before your planned delivery.
What is antepartum hospitalization and when does it happen?
Before I did this interview, I knew next to nothing about antepartum hospitalization and many moms feel the same until it becomes their reality. Antepartum hospitalization is defined as hospitalization around pregnancy and it is to prevent premature birth.
Here are a few reasons a soon-to-be-mom might be hospitalized:
- Premature rupture of membranes
- High blood pressure
- Irregular doppler flow (blood flow through the umbilical cord)
- Multiple gestation with complications, such as twins that share one placenta and one sac
- Kidney stones or kidney infections
According to Catherine, the main goal of antepartum hospitalization is to keep mom and baby healthy. This means keeping the baby inside for as long as possible!
Hospitalization is usually determined by your doctor; however, the nurses are available at EIRMC 24/7. If you are concerned about anything you are experiencing and can’t get in touch with your doctor, you can go to EIRMC or call (208) 529-7135 at any time. The nurses will take care of you and make sure you receive the best care possible!
What does antepartum hospitalization entail?
Catherine knows how scary this situation can be and she walked me through exactly what happens when you are admitted.
Moms will have IV access for pain medicine, antibiotics, fluids, or preterm labor. If preterm labor is a worry, the mom will also be given betamethasone, a steroid. Steroids help mature the baby’s lungs, giving them a better chance at breathing should they come early. Betamethasone is usually given as an injection into the muscle and can be painful as it is a very thick fluid. This injection is given twice (24 hours apart) and is most effective if birth can be delayed for at least 24 hours after the second dose.
“Most women, regardless of why they were admitted, will be on continuous fetal monitoring for at least a day or two. This means you are going to be seeing a lot of your nurse. If you are here, we want to make sure your baby is happy, healthy, and safe.”
If everything continues to go well after the first day or two, the nurses will switch to intermittent fetal monitoring which is when the nurse comes in several times a day to get a reading of the baby’s heartbeat. These nurses will work closely with your OBGYN and perinatologists to determine what is best for the baby.
During the stay, moms and babies will be receiving the best care as they are monitored by highly trained nurses and their practitioners to ensure that they have the safest pregnancy and delivery possible.
How soon can I have my baby?
The optimal time for a baby to come is at the 40-week mark to ensure full brain development and health. As such, EIRMC will not induce before 39-weeks unless medically necessary. Often, though, for antepartum hospitalization, the goal is for the baby to reach 37 weeks. Any baby born before 36 weeks is put under automatic NICU observation. For more information on brain development in the last few weeks of pregnancy, visit March of Dimes!
What happens when a baby is born early?
If the baby is born before 36 weeks, he or she will be monitored in the NICU. The duration of their stay and the different care baby receives is completely dependent on the baby’s condition. The NICU nurses will constantly monitor to ensure the baby is receiving exactly what is needed to thrive after labor.
What can a mom do during her stay?
“Our goal is for you to be bored. That means things are going well. The longer we keep you pregnant, the better it is for the baby. It is okay to move in.” Whatever your hobby is, you can do it, as long as it doesn’t increase your risk of preterm labor, such as exercise or lots of movement. Catherine suggested bringing in your laptop, scrapbooking, sewing machine, or whatever you did at home. This sounds like a great time to read one of the books for our East Idaho Moms book club!
What are the visitation regulations?
Friends and family are allowed to visit and bring treats. There are seasonal restrictions and it is dependent on the current health regulations, so always check with the hospital.
*Currently, due to COVID, a patient may have two designated visitors for the duration of her stay. During the restrictions, the family is more than welcome to visit through the windows or virtually through video calling. EIRMC knows this is a difficult time and that moms need support and they will be sure to accommodate her needs within the guidelines.
What do you wish moms knew about antepartum hospitalization?
“This can obviously be a scary and unpredictable time. Try to keep calm and focus on growing that baby. It makes a huge difference the longer you keep your baby inside.” Your antepartum stay could range from one day to one hundred plus days. Just remember to celebrate each day the baby stays inside! During this time, your nurses and staff will really get to know you and support you. “Feel free to ask questions frequently and as you think of them, even if you feel like you are repeating the question. We want you to participate in the plan of care and feel like you understand what is happening.”
What should the support person know during this situation?
“There are going to be rough days. It’s a very emotional rollercoaster to be in the hospital. The more they can do to support them at home the better. Don’t hesitate to ask for help. Get family and friends involved if you have kids at home.”
It’s never any pregnant mom’s dream to have complications leading up to or during birth and the staff at EIRMC is here to help. EIRMC offers top-notch care for all moms so they can have the best experience possible. Keeping moms and babies healthy is their main goal. If you are a pregnant mom that’s nervous about delivery, schedule a tour! It helped ease my mind and I felt more comfortable going into labor after familiarizing myself with the level of care available at EIRMC!