What’s this nurse’s secret weapon for faster deliveries?

What’s this nurse’s secret weapon for faster deliveries?

For decades, there have been different methods suggested to help women get through their labor quicker, such as a squat bar, soaking in the tub or using a birthing ball.

Betsy Van Etten, a labor and delivery nurse of 23 years at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Ill., shares her hospital’s secret for faster deliveries.

“Since I’ve become a nurse, there have been vast improvements in the quality of pain relief and anesthesia, new bonding methodologies and high-risk pregnancy practices, but changes to the way we deliver babies are few and far between,” says Betsy. “Fortunately, labor and delivery is an area where the bedside nurse has great autonomy and the ability to be innovative and alert to new ideas. Which is why when a colleague mentioned a new tool called the peanut ball, I was excited and interested to learn more about it.”

The peanut ball is essentially a large exercise ball shaped like a peanut that women place between their legs during labor to open their pelvis.

“We were astonished by the results, and everyone from nurses to physicians quickly fell in love with this fairly inexpensive, ‘high-touch, low-tech’ option for labor management,” she adds. “We currently have eight peanut balls in labor and delivery at Advocate Christ, and it’s common now to see nurses coming out of patient rooms saying, ‘anyone know where there’s a peanut ball?’”

According to research published in the Journal of Perinatal Education, the peanut ball decreased the length of labor by 29 minutes for women in the first stage of labor and 11 minutes for women in the second stage. It also suggests the use of a peanut ball significantly lowering the need for a cesarean delivery.

This tool is especially helpful for mothers who have received an epidural for their delivery.

“One of the things that seemed to be universal advice was that most women couldn’t tolerate the labor sensations when using the peanut ball unless they had an epidural,” says Betsy. “This wasn’t bad news for us, though. Women who don’t have epidurals are able to move and change position and generally work with labor and gravity to get their baby into the best position for birth. The obstacle we face is when women receive an epidural, they are numb from the waist down, making walking and even moving a challenge. This was where the peanut ball came in. Once a mom is in active labor (meaning more than five centimeters dilated and contracting regularly) and has an epidural, we are able to position her with her leg over the top in a way that opens her pelvis and really facilitates getting the baby into the perfect position for delivery.”

“Therein lies my passion for labor and delivery,” says Betsy. “It’s my job to do everything in my power to help every woman achieve their own vision of a perfect ‘birth day’”. I often tell people, ‘You’re going to do this, what? Two, three times in your whole life? It should be the way you want it to be.’”

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About the Author

Marrison Worthington
Marrison Worthington

Marrison Worthington, health enews contributor, is a public affairs and marketing manager at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Illinois. She is a graduate of Illinois State University and has several years of global corporate communications experience under her belt. Marrison loves spending her free time traveling, reading organizational development blogs, trying new cooking recipes, and playing with her golden retriever, Ari.