Monday, February 17, 2014

3 Heartbeats, 2 EFMs, & 1 Pregnant Mom

After getting report from the previous nurse, I walked towards my patient’s room wondering how I was going to make it through my shift.  The patient I was assigned to was admitted for overnight observation to rule out labor.  My patient was early in her gestation approximately 26 weeks and was expecting twins.  The previous nurse said she had been in and out of the room all afternoon trying to keep the babies on the external fetal monitors (EFMs), but found it difficult.  At 26 weeks gestation, babies have more room to move inside mom’s uterus; hence it is difficult to trace their heart rate for a long period of time.

Upon entering the room, the lights were dim; the patient was resting peacefully.  Since it was evening the only window in the room was illuminating a dark sky.  Bright lights were coming from the monitor and IV machine, near the patient’s bed.  I introduced myself quietly and asked the patient how she was doing, so I could assess feelings of frustration, weariness, or impatience in her voice.  She mirrored my welcome, with a hint of positivity in her tone.  (Side note: I don’t mind getting a one-sided biased report from the previous nurse but I like to make my own decisions on what kind of patient I will be dealing with by hearing from them myself.)  Before I started adjusting the EFMs, I suggested the patient empty her bladder, get readjusted in bed, and even offered a few extra pillows for support between the knees, and behind the lower back since she was lying on her side.

After the patient was back in bed and more comfortable I began searching for baby As heartbeat.  (Another side note: when adjusting EFMs on mom’s with twin pregnancies, it’s best to turn the volume down on the opposite baby’s heart rate so you hear the one you’re trying to locate.)  Now keep in mind this is the first twin pregnancy I've handled since coming off orientation, so I’m not a master at the art of finding two separate heart beats.  After locating baby As heartbeat I forgot to turn down the monitor before trying to locate baby Bs heartbeat. 

All of a sudden I was hearing two distinct separate heartbeats at the same exact time on the monitor.  Now the more experienced nurse might have quickly figured out she needed to turn down the heartbeat on baby A, so she could locate baby B.  But I sat there for a moment delighting in the miracle of not just hearing one heartbeat but two.  I just kept my hand on the monitor and listened.  I looked at the patient and asked if she had ever heard both her baby’s heartbeats at the same time.  She admitted she hadn't.  She too seemed thrilled at what she was hearing.  So we just sat there listening to both heartbeats for a while.  After attaching the strap that keeps the monitors on the patient’s abdomen, I thought it would be neat to grab my stethoscope and listen to mom’s heart rate while hearing both baby’s heartbeats in the background.  Both baby’s heart rates were quick between 140s and 150s, but mom’s heart rate was slower, more powerful in the 70s-80s range. 

Mom wanted to listen to all three heartbeats; she too thought it was a remarkable moment.  I told her that her strong heart was beating and supplying enough blood to circulate to both of her baby’s hearts inside her.  
After hearing what I said must have registered with her, because her eyes moistened and her voice broke as she tried to get her husband’s attention who was napping in the chair beside her. 

Together the three of us sat quietly listening to the three heartbeats within her. 

Despite the fact that I did have to go back and forth to readjust and keep both babies’ heart rates on the monitor throughout my shift, I didn't mind so much.

I just marveled at the simple beauty of God’s intricate creation of life.


  1. Thank you for the post. I really miss my OB rotation. I am literally shocked by how much I fell in love with the NICU last semester. As a man I was often asked to leave the room by moms, and I didn't mind, but having three kids of my own, I never get tired of seeing the miracle of birth. I graduate next year and hope to land in the nursery or level 2 NICU (feeders & growers), with an ultimate dream placement in the level 3.

    Keep up the good work!

  2. Precious. As I'm finishing up nursing school, I still haven't had that true "aha" moment of "this is where I want to be when I graduate", but I continue to think in the back of my mind that L & D might be more of where I want to head. Alas, I guess I won't know until I get to experience the jobs themselves. I'm so happy to hear that things are going better for you and you seem to be settling into your role. I bet you make a GREAT L & D nurse & I can see you becoming better & better. Thank you for sharing your wonderful experience, that mom was blessed by having an unbiased nurse such as yourself as her nurse that day.

  3. :-) A truly wonderful glimpse into your world!

  4. What an amazing experience by a wonderful nurse!! That mom will never forget you. God Bless you!!

  5. Glad you are in L&'s the best area to work!!! :) I found out later in my career, and I am still sad that it ended almost 10 years ago due to an MVA. :) Proud of you!

  6. Thanks CC, I'm so glad that I'm working in an area where the individuals want to come to the hospital (for the most part). I find my job very rewarding when I am able to teach patients new things and you can see the lightbult turn on for them. Other times when census is high or we are short staffed the job can be difficult. Especially under high stress times, that's when mistakes can happen. No job in my entire life has left me feeling so emotionally, physically, spiritually, and mentally drained as being a nurse. At least after every shift I go home feeling like I put 110% into my practice.