labor nurse has been reborn and shares her experiences as a new nurse-midwife, woman, and blogger

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Nakedness

So another nurse I work with started discussing how a woman she was caring for insisted on being naked throughout her labor, and even after when she first got up to go to the bathroom after she gave birth. The nurse was bothered about "where to put her hands", and that this woman seemed to have a complete lack of modesty.

I argued why not be naked? Who cares? And why exactly do your hands have to be on some part of her? I mean, if the woman was steady on her feet enough to get up and go to the bathroom, you only need to stand next to her as a just in case she decides to go down. Not to mention that many women feel encumbered by all the stuff we attach them to when the come to the hospital. I know that I would probably be annoyed by having belts strapped around my abdomen, being tethered to an IV pole, and given a johnny to wear that has scratchy, starched ties that continuously rub the back of my neck.

Also, it wasn't like this woman was walking the halls naked, alarming some of the other visitors and patients.

And on point of modesty, that gets left at the unit entrance when a woman comes into the hospital. If a woman is comfortable enough to be naked, then so be it. We expect that women just open their legs at our convenience when they are in labor (I'm not condoning this but I've seen so many providers with this expectation), so I don't get why all of a sudden the expectation is that women need to be covered up to not possible offend the staff.

Bottom line: who cares.

I mean, it's must preferred over seeing some random woman in the gym locker room who is just from the shower, bent over completely naked while she dries in between her toes. Because, to me, that is bothersome.

17 comments:

Rixa said...

Of all the times and places to be naked, birth strikes me as one of the top events! I"m used to seeing totally naked women as a doula and midwife's apprentice (with most of the births I've been to being home births) and so it would actually seem a bit weird to me if she were clothed.

Stassja said...

That stuff drives me nuts. When I was in labor with my son I hated all the crap I had strapped to me. The nurses kept leaving the BP cuff on me to save them the hardship of having to come in and put it on me every hour or so. (Note, this was a TINY hospital, the five days I was there in total only two other women came in, delivered, and recovered. One of which was a scheduled CS. It's not like they were insanely busy.)

After helping me shift positions at one point, my Dr. carefully retied the gown they had on me. No sooner had he finished then I clawed the thing off of me and it stayed off. My mom still chuckles recalling it, I was away in labor land. Hehe.

It does seem incongruous, spread your legs to be prodded whenever we ask of you, but how dare you be naked in the middle of labor!

lostinrain said...

I have sensory integration dysorder and can't stand things, especially clothing and my hair, touching me anytime I am under stress. Luckily, I had 2 normal, uncomplicated births that did not even require IV or stitches. I don't have any friends who have NOT preferred nudity while in labor and afterward! I think most women move into a state of hypersensitivity during labor. Akin to how I am all the time! :)

Jill said...

Yeah, it's a little ironic that nudity would bother them when they spend their whole day with one hand in a bunch of stranger's hoo-has.

Hmm...this stirred up some interesting thougths in me. I might have to blog on the deeper meaning of this.

Sheridan said...

I agree with you. A mom should be naked if she wants to be. As a doula I realize I may see any of my clients naked and that is fine with me. Whatever the mom wants rules!

delilah said...

Amen! Plus, once you're in active labor, you're not paying attention to anything. I looked at the pictures after both births, going, "Wow, I was (or was not) wearing that gown? Crazy!" There's just not much modesty after 12 people have seen the inside of your bajingo.

..... said...

Hi there -- I agree with your bottom line -- Who cares!! As a doula, I can think of more than one laboring mom whom I encouraged to lose her inhibitions and just make some noise, to loosen up her throat, her airway, her body, her pelvis. I wish more women in labor were comfortable enough to let go like the woman you described -- but it does bring about another issue -- how to let go and be comfortable when you are in a "sick" room, with all sorts of mechanical and sterile elements that are as far from natural and comfortable surroundings as you can get?

mommymichael said...

I guess she wouldn't have liked me.

Even loose comfortable "normal" clothes bothered me during labor and birth. not to mention i wanted in the birthing tub. i've seen women wearing sports bras during labor, and in the pool. and I can imagine that would have bothered the heck out of me.

i had a hep lock for my first birth, since i was GBS +, so i chose medication for that and the hep lock reeeeeally got on my nerves. but i put up with it anyway.

my first thought when i read this was "what about our exposed and open legs?" but I see you covered that. ;)

Anonymous said...

Agreed! I can't believe someone would work in L&D and be bothered by nakedness.

Women who are delivering a baby really don't have a choice about being naked from the waist down during delivery, and often don't get a choice about who sees them naked (as far as hospital employees go). At least let her decide how naked she wants to be for the rest of the process. If she wants no clothes, so be it. If she wants a covering, so be it. Modesty can go out the window, as far as I care, after the ordeal of childbirth. This woman just delivered a baby!

sara said...

I generally hate feeling exposed, but while in labor I just wanted to be naked. It was funny.

Patricia said...

Where would the nurse's hands be if she were clothed? I fail to see why hands on shoulders, upper arms or back would pose a problem, clothed or not. Plus, I really appreciate your comment that hospital personnel more or less expect laboring women to spread their legs and show their girly parts to any and all who request to see them. That tends to strip one (me at least) of one's modesty pretty fast. When I was hospitalized with the birth of my first child, people would randomly walk into my room (post-delivery) at all hours, often without knocking. If I was trying to breasfeed, they got an eyeful. I figured they had all seen it all before, and they also should have knocked if they wanted me to cover up.

I don't know, something about your colleague's reaction really annoys me. Good for you for having the appropriate (non) reaction to it all!

Heather the Mama Duk said...

With my two homebirths (#3 and 4) I was a totally naked birther. My clothes returned to my body slowly over the hours and day (I stayed in just a T-shirt and underwear for a couple days) after the births. I was barely clothed in my birthing center birth (#2). In my hospital birth (#1) I wanted that gown off, but they wouldn't let me. Drove me crazy. In labor some things just have to go and I doubt the naked momma cared where the nurse's hands were!

Aphrodine said...

My sister was naked every second of her delivery for her first child. She felt so uncomfortable hot during her delivery that even the paper-thin gown bothered her.

The Mommy Blawger said...

Loss of modesty is just an emotional signpost of labor. I'm surprised an L&D nurse wouldn't know that. Some women, of course, are modest all the way through. But you know that a woman is in a good, active labor pattern when she takes off her clothes and doesn't care.

PE Mommy said...

Ok I am one of those women that DON'T like to be naked. I just had my 3rd baby 5 weeks ago. I still found it really wierd that when it came to the pushing stage the baby nurses were talking, and one decided to see how close I was and she came for a looksie. I was like HELLO, you'll know it's close when you hear a baby cry!!!! I have had my obgyn for 5 years now. He has delivered two of my babies, done 2 d&cs, and 2 laps. You know what, I still hate getting naked for him! In fact when he did the cervadil this time, I told him I really hate this part. He said ummm I don't know it would be kind of wierd if you liked it.

Keith and Nicci said...

I'm new to your blog, but FYI, I was naked by accident when I gave birth to my 1st child (unmedicated, btw) because I was taking a bath and my body took over and told me to start pushing. From there on out I barely made it to the bed, let alone worried about putting anything on my bare body. I agree - who cares! Birth is about the mother and baby, not those around her, and if she wants to be naked because she's more comfortable, I say go for it :)

Joy said...

This is definitely one time I wouldn't even think twice about a woman being naked. You're already hot and uncomfortable! I will let the hospital do their required monitoring when I first get there but after that I'm ripping those stupid abdomen things off! And the BP thing on your finger on one hand and an IV in the other hand the whole time?! No thanks!

My sister gave birth naked, on all fours, without medications. That is inspiring!