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A closer look at the obstetric triage process

The latter stages of pregnancy are no doubt an exciting time for couples and families in Springfield. It's during this time when unborn fetuses experience their most rapid development. Thus, careful monitoring of mother and baby is essential to prevent birth injuries.

Mothers may often experience contractions in the weeks leading up to their delivery dates significant enough to convince them that they may be going into labor. If and when they present to the hospital with symptoms of labor, they'll typically undergo obstetric triage. It's during this assessment that health care personnel determine whether or not a baby is ready to be delivered. This practice was first implemented in hospitals across the U.S. during the 1980's to reduce the number of unnecessary admissions due to false labor.

According to The Institute for Clinical Systems Improvement, the clinical definition of labor is having a minimum of two contractions every 15 minutes as well as any combination of at least two of the following conditions:

  •          Spontaneous rupturing of membranes at the bottom of the uterus
  •          A complete effacement of the cervix
  •          Cervical dilation greater than 3 cm
  •          Any other cervical abnormality

If expectant mothers don't meet these criteria, they're typically sent home with instructions to continue to monitor their symptoms.

During obstetric triage, nurses are also expected to conduct fetal heart monitoring. The publication OBG Management reports that a rate of 120 to 180 beats per minute is expected for a healthy baby. Anything lower than that could be a sign of impaired umbilical or uterine blood flow, which could cause placental insufficiency, resulting in complications such as preeclampsia or even stillbirth. Triage nurses, who perform a majority of obstetric triage assessments, are expected to communicate abnormal results to the on-call physician and/or their patients own OB/GYNs. 

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