So the day has come, baby is just about to drop out, what do you do? What is happening? When can I sleep? The birth for dad can be a pretty daunting experience. Just imagine what it’s like for mum!
Well, hopefully I can answer some of these questions. Giving birth is the final stage of pregnancy (well duh), and it can of course vary from mother to mother.
Pre-labour can happen a few days or even longer before the birth. This is when mum experiences contractions that happen sporadically, as baby starts to move into position – they can be twenty minutes or more apart. Like Braxton Hicks contractions, this is normal and not anything to be concerned about.
On TV you’ll notice that a woman’s “waters break”, then everyone high fives and rushes to hospital. This can happen during this pre-labour phase, so it doesn’t necessarily mean that baby is right at the door (or cervix).
However, you or mum should let the midwife know when it happens, as they will be expecting to see the baby sooner rather than later and if there are any complications they will want to be aware. Let them know how much fluid and whether it was clear or not, and whether it had an unusual smell. They may ask you to come to the labour ward at this point if that is where you expect to have the baby.
Until this point, make sure mum has the opportunity to eat something, maybe run her a warm bath – this helps to ease the pain – but once her waters have broken, if they do, no bath. This stage might take a while.
Okay, hopefully at this point “birth plan” is not a completely alien concept to you. Your partner and yourself have hopefully had a discussion about it, or at the very least she and her midwife have some idea of what they will hope to happen – this will give you an idea of whether she is expecting any medical interventions, what sort of pain relief options she wants, whether she wants a water birth, and more.
This should also give you an idea of when to go to the hospital – probably when contractions get to about 5 minutes apart, or once her waters have broken. Make sure you take into account your travel time too, or you might be taking a solo course in delivering a baby on the road.
In most cases it will be more comfortable for both of you to stay at home for most of the early part of labour – seriously, you could be in hospital for hours, so don’t rush in at the first signs! Make sure you call the ward beforehand – their number should be in mum’s pregnancy notes.
As the labour progresses mum’s contractions will get closer together. Once they are within a few minutes of each other this is called active labour. This is when, on TV, you see a woman huffing and puffing and going “squeeeeeee”. It can last a few hours.
Do what you can to comfort mum, encourage her to use the toilet – having a full bladder can make it more difficult to have baby – maybe she will eat something, maybe not, but have something light on hand as a snack. A cool drink would probably go down well.
This stage is, I would imagine, incredibly uncomfortable for mum. So if she would like a back rub, give her one. Ask the midwife if she can have a warm bath, if she likes – this can have a great effect to ease the pain.
Try to advocate for your missus as much as you can – you must have an agreement about this beforehand (see birth plan above). You need to be flexible, obviously, and maybe your arrangement to have no pain relief will go out of the window after a few hours of contractions, but try to make sure that mum gets to make the decision about any interventions.
At the end of the above phase, provided all goes well then mum’s cervix is fully dilated and the head of the baby is starting to be pushed out. You’ll either go to the delivery room or maybe stay where you are, depending on the setup there.
This phase usually doesn’t take too long – this is where the midwife or doctor is saying “puush!!” and mum’s legs are up in stirrups. Hopefully her legs won’t be up in stirrups in your experience – this sort of thing is a bit outdated now, and it seems that babies come out easier when gravity is on their side rather than being pushed against the flow. Whodathunkit?
Baby will come out, hopefully a healthy shade of grey-blue, and mum will probably get to hold it immediately – skin to skin. Hopefully you will also get a chance to hold baby in this way too – bare chest to bare baby. This is good for baby and parent alike.
Baby will be dried and clothed – they get cold so easily – and probably have a first feed. Well, you’re probably welling up there now, that’s okay – enjoy your little one.
Foetal ejection reflex. The above description is pretty typical, and is probably quite close to what you your partner will experience. But have a read about this foetal ejection reflex. Sounds interesting, huh? Momma knows best…