Honestly, I had no idea I would be writing a post on labor, delivery, and allergies. I did not expect my allergies would affect my labor, delivery, and hospital stay with Owen as much as they did. Sure, I anticipated having to share my allergies when I was admitted, but I thought that would be the extent of the allergy issue. If birth stories freak you out – don’t worry, no gory details are shared here!
Unfortunately, I labored for quite a while before I was finally admitted to the hospital. I was sent home twice from the hospital because although my contractions were coming every 3-4 minutes, I had not progressed enough. The third time we went to the hospital, I was having contractions every 2 minutes, and they were over a 10 on the pain scale (I became my worst nightmare, and was the woman screaming in pain as each contraction hit). At my lowest point, the charge nurse came into my room after an hour to check me, and although I was screaming in pain, and contractions were less than 2 minutes apart, she wanted to send me home again. I was crushed when the nurse told me that she would not call my doctor (even though he had given those instructions) and was shocked as she then started to tease me for my allergies. I was begging for something to ease the pain but explained that I had a number of life-threatening allergies to medications, and it turned out that one of those medications was her favorite to give moms to help them labor at home. She continued to tell me how amazing that medication is, and how I was pretty unlucky to not be able to take anything – she literally started to laugh as she told me this. Not only could I not believe that I was getting teased for my allergies by someone in the medical field, but also while I was in the most terrifying and vulnerable position. God bless the on-call doctor that gave my doctor a call, who instantly said I needed to be admitted.
Throughout labor, I had to continue to share my allergies each time a new nurse came in. I also had to share my allergies with the anesthesiologist before I received the epidural (which is THE MOST wonderful thing). Unfortunately, because I had labored so long, Owen’s heart rate was starting to dip with my contractions as the time to push got closer, so I ended up needing to have a c-section, which was again, another opportunity where I needed to recall my allergies for the doctors and nurses.
Labor and delivery was extremely eventful, and my allergies affected the process more than I had anticipated.
The rest of my hospital stay was also more affected by my allergies than I had expected. At every shift change, there was a new nurse to take care of us, and a new nurse to explain all of my allergies to – both food allergies and medication allergies. It was difficult to have to continue to recount my allergies and how they affected me as I was recovering from labor and delivery, learning to breastfeed, and was MAJORLY sleep deprived. If you read my tips for the third trimester, I explain that next time, I might just have a paper printed out for the nurses to reference so that I don’t have to explain each allergy every time I get a new nurse. There was also a very wide range in the understanding of allergies by the different nurses. I had one nurse who told me that she totally understood having allergies – every time her husband ate beans, he would have to run to the bathroom. Anaphylaxis is VERY different than having to take an extra trip to the bathroom. I did have an absolutely wonderful nurse, Melissa, who had allergies herself and completely understood.
She understood the anxiety that comes with having to take new medication and trying to find safe food, while you are already in such a vulnerable state.
I wasn’t able to eat any food from the hospital cafeteria, as they cooked with a number of my allergens, and couldn’t guarantee that whatever I ordered would be completely safe. This posed another issue – needing to find safe food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, for two and a half days. Thankfully, one of the nurses helped me figure out some foods that would be safe and healthy for me as I was recovering, and my parents were able to run out and grab food for us to keep at the hospital. We were able to use the nurse’s microwave and fridge to store and prepare the food we were keeping as well.
Sharing this experience is not for the purpose of scaring those with allergies, but to hopefully educate those with and without allergies. Giving birth was the scariest and most wonderful experience of my life, but there are definitely a few things I would change for the next time around.
For next time…
I plan to be more mentally prepared for needing to share and discuss my allergies with medical staff. Not only will I have my allergies listed on my birth plan, but I plan to bring a printed paper with a clear list of all allergies (both food and medication) for nurses to use after delivery. I will also try to be more mentally and emotionally prepared for staff that may not understand the severity of my allergies, and may even tease or make light of them. I also want to have a game plan for getting food for our hospital stay, even if that is just sending a family member to the store like we did this time.
I’d love to hear your thoughts, questions, or experiences – allergies or not! Comment below 🙂