Medical Procedures Handout

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Procedure How It’s Done Why It’s Done/Benefits Risks to Mom Risks to Baby


(Using medication or procedures to start labour)

  • Sweeping membranes (provider separates amniotic sac from uterus)
  • Mechanical dilator (device inserted in cervix and expanded)
  • Cervical ripening agents (medication applied on or near cervix)
  • Pitocin (medicine added to IV)
  • Too far past due date
  • Water breaks without contractions
  • Pregnancy has put you or baby at risk
  • Increased chance of cesarean birth
  • Increased labour discomfort
  • Infection (with mechanical dilator and sweeping membranes)

Fetal distress


(Using medication or procedures to speed up labour)

  • Pitocin (medicine added to IV)
  • Amniotomy (breaking the bag of waters)
  • Labour slows down
  • Need for stronger, more frequent contractions
  • Doesn’t always shorten labour
  • Infection (with amniotomy)

Fetal distress


(Narcotic pain medication)

  • Nurse injects medication to into your thigh or hip
  • Can be given shortly after requested
  • Provides fast relief
  • Doesn’t numb muscles
  • Drowsiness, nausea, and itching
  • May slow breathing
  • May lower blood pressure
  • Slow breathing
  • Sleepy and less alert at birth

(Avoid 1-3 hours before birth to reduce those effects)


(Regional anesthesia that numbs pain in the lower body)

  • Anesthesiologist places a catheter in your lower back that carries medication to you
  • Safe, effective pain relief
  • Chance to rest
  • Does not affect mental state
  • Shivering, fever, itching, nausea
  • Lowered blood pressure
  • Incomplete pain relief
  • Other rare risks are listed on consent form
  • No significant risks to the baby are known
  • Higher doses and longer administration could impact breastfeeding

Second Stage Interventions

(Procedures that help baby through birth canal)

  • Episiotomy (an incision in the perineum)
  • Vacuum extractor (a suction cup and pump that helps guide the baby out)
  • Forceps (an instrument shaped like tongs to help guide the baby out)
  • Too tired to push
  • Epidural causes ineffective pushing
  • Baby needs to be born quickly
  • Doesn’t offer substantial benefit (episiotomy)
  • Increased pain and infection after birth (episiotomy)
  • Tearing of the perineum (forceps and vacuum extractor)
  • Temporary marks/ bruising on the baby’s face or head (vacuum/ forceps)
  • Temporary nerve problems in baby’s face (forceps)

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