Midwife blog, September 2014
I was about to start my night shift on the postnatal ward and was tentatively expecting a busy one.
It was September after all, probably the busiest month of the year due to the Christmas holidays being nine months before. But also because – according to a Royal College of Midwives poll (2014) – one in six women actively plan to conceive in December to have their babies in September!
If this wasn’t enough to confirm a busy shift was lying in wait, we were also due for a full moon. But not just any full moon, this was to be a ‘super moon’! To my surprise, however, the ward was surprisingly calm at handover and I started planning for a peaceful night shift with my colleagues.
The calmness, though, was short lived. A phone call from the frantic labour ward came through and it quickly became apparent that I would be spending my shift in there instead.
After a quick change into scrubs, I found myself on the recently refurbished labour ward. Everything looked very different from the last time I had been there a few months ago and I felt like I was in someone else’s kitchen, trying to find where everything was.
But there was little time for familiarisation, the lady I had assumed care for had a suspicious CTG and needed an urgent review from the registrar.
With offensive liquor and fetal distress we were soon preparing for an instrumental delivery. I’d barely had a chance to introduce myself as I rushed around giving support, assisting the doctor and making a note of the time everything was happening.
After the delivery (which was followed by postpartum haemorrhage and other further complications), I finally thought I would get a few moments to tie up some loose ends. You can probably guess which was this is going.
I had just sat down to finish my notes when I heard the unmistakable sound of a labouring woman walking up from Triage with the Triage Midwife. I greeted her with a smile as the midwife informed me that I was the only midwife available and she had been told to hand the lady over to me.
I felt torn. I wanted to provide care for this lady but could not stop thinking about what I still had to do for my other lady. If she was coping well I hoped I could just about juggle it considering my other lady had now delivered.
I introduced myself and I noticed the one-legged stance and how close together the lady’s contractions were. Within about five minutes another unmistakable sound… she was pushing!
It wasn’t long before I had a glimpse of the head and I prepared to deliver my second baby of the night. It was a lovely uncomplicated delivery that I felt lucky to be a part of. After all, if you’re going to be busy, what better way to do it than by helping a new life come into the world.
The fun part of my job was soon over and it was back to more paperwork. I hadn’t had a break yet but planned to finish everything off and hopefully have time to at least eat something. It wasn’t to be.
Coming from Triage was another multiparous lady who was already pushing. The Sister in charge looked at me apologetically, knowing that she had no choice but to hand the latest arrival over to me. All my colleagues were tied up elsewhere, whereas both my ladies had already delivered.
Only a quick introduction was possible as my third labouring woman of the night was well into the second stage, with the vertex visible. Just minutes later I had delivered my third baby of the night, thankful as always that everything had gone well.
My shift should have ended half an hour before but, despite being exhausted, there were things I wanted to do for my lady before handing over. When the fresh-faced day staff took over it was a relief to see them, safe in the knowledge that I could soon fall into bed to prepare myself to do it all again that night.
On the drive home I pondered the full moon theory and wondered if there was actually anything in it.
Many midwives will admit to being aware of the moon and will give a quick glance at the sky on entering the hospital on a night shift, and from my experience some of my busiest shifts definitely seem to be around a full moon.
It’s not just midwives that think the moon has something to do with women going into labour, many women think it does too. You only have to look at the Baby and Bump website where a lady recommends turning your bump in the direction of a full moon and rubbing it twice to bring on labour! There was even the suggestion from the press that the full moon was responsible for Kate Middleton going into labour.
There doesn’t seem to be any overwhelming evidence to suggest that the moon effects birth rate. However, Guillion et al (1986) looked at 5,927,978 French births and found that more births occurred between the last quarter and the new moon, than in the first quarter.
On the other hand, a more recent study by Arliss et al (2004) looked at 564,039 births across 62 lunar cycles and they found no significant differences in frequency of birth rates.
Despite the research I don’t think I’m alone in feeling uneasy around a full moon. From my experience it does seem to have an effect on how busy my shift will be.
If the moon can control the tide, is it really too far fetched to think it can have an effect on the human body? Such a large percentage of our bodies are water and, when pregnant, we carry babies surrounded in amniotic fluid after all!