Born into this world too early
When labour begins before the due date, it’s normal for an expectant mother to be nervous and afraid. The journey towards giving birth is stressful and full of surprises, but the destination is all the more valuable.
In the middle of an April night, 33-year-old Hanna Tiainen is lying in an ambulance on its way to Oulu Central Hospital, squeezing her phone tightly. Just a few hours earlier she was watching a film at home, on the couch with her husband, and then went upstairs to sleep. When she snapped awake after a moment, the bed sheet felt warm and wet. Her water had broken, even though it was only the 33rd week of pregnancy.
A lot happened during the next few hours. Her husband had fallen asleep on the couch and had to be woken up. Panic. A phone call to Oulu Central Hospital. Should they go straight to Oulu, two hundred kilometres away, or first to the Kuusamo health centre? First of all, it was important to make sure this really was the water breaking. They took the car to the health centre where the issue was confirmed with a test. Then by ambulance to Oulu to give birth. That April night, Tiainen had no concept of time.
Nurse Irmeli Pitkämäki from Kuusamo’s maternity clinic explains that premature birth is a birth that takes place between the 22nd and 37th week of pregnancy. She lists some symptoms of premature labour: painful contractions, uterine pain, mucous, bloody leakage and early water breaking.
Hanna Tiainen had never ridden in an ambulance before and was afraid the baby would be born on the road. The presence of the midwife calmed her.
Seeing the stretcher made her anxious
As she was leaving the house, Tiainen grabbed only her cellphone and maternity card. Her husband picked up the rest of the stuff later. The start of premature labour took Tiainen completely by surprise, and she hadn’t packed a hospital bag. Up until then, the pregnancy had been progressing as described in the textbooks, and she was prepared to give birth in the full-term weeks of pregnancy. Only the crib had been purchased.
“I was in the best shape of my life during pregnancy and was planning on giving birth naturally and peacefully”, she says.
Pitkämäki reminds us that a mother in premature labour doesn’t have to worry about taking things with her to the hospital. The most important thing is to have your maternity card with you. The hospital staff will immediately get the necessary information about the mother and baby from it, and with a handwritten booklet, there’s no risk of the system crashing at the moment of need.
In the ambulance, there was also a midwife who happened to have a day off. This was exceptional, because usually there are only ambulance personnel on board, who haven’t been separately trained for births. Tiainen had never ridden in an ambulance before and was afraid the baby would be born on the road. The presence of the midwife calmed her.
A nurse was waiting for the mother-to-be with a stretcher by the doors of Oulu Central Hospital. She wasn’t allowed to walk so that the birth wouldn’t start, so she was wheeled into the room on a stretcher. It made her feel anxious, because Tiainen didn’t feel as if she were sick. She had only had a few contractions throughout her pregnancy as well.
Labour was started two weeks after the water broke. The contractions began immediately and came every two and a half minutes. Drops in the baby’s heart rate were identified before labour, which is why the mother was taken to the delivery ward for monitoring. Tiainen said goodbye to the idea of floating in a bathtub and moving freely: she was stuck in a rocking chair with wires attached to her belly.
New parents want to be by their child around the clock, especially if the little one is born as a preemie. But it’s important to remember not to wear yourself out.
How will the little person survive?
Parents are often worried about how the newborn baby will survive immediately after birth. Will they be taken to intensive care or an incubator, or can they get into rooming-in care straight away? The mother is often completely at the mercy of the nursing staff, which may feel particularly frightening for a first-time mother.
“Parents are very concerned about how a small person can be looked after, since they seem so frail. They’re worried that they’ll break”, Irmeli Pitkämäki says.
In order for the parents to not be consumed by worry, it’s important that they are listened to and supported.
“The mother has the right to hear about all treatments that are given to the baby and be included in them. New parents want to be by their child around the clock, especially if the little one is born as a preemie. But it’s important to remember not to wear yourself out”, Pitkämäki says.
“We try to address the parents’ concerns as well as possible. The newborn baby is monitored and watched actively at home, in hospital and in child health clinic care. The important thing is that the parents don’t feel like they’re alone at any stage.”
Hanna Tiainen had her child in rooming-in care right after delivery. The wet bed sheets, ambulance and stretcher were soon forgotten, and the crib finally got its first occupant.