Gone are the days where fathers are stowed away in the hospital corridors while mothers labour and birth their children. These days it’s expected and common practices for fathers to be actively involved throughout this process. Here are five ways you can help a dad-to-be become a fabulous support during labour.
Having an active and confident support person throughout your pregnancy and labour is extremely important. But this can sometimes feel overwhelming and confusing for the men, especially those who have experienced a birth yet.
The best way to prepare for labour as a mum and a dad is to attend a child birthing class. These are hosted by most hospitals and birthing centres.
But before you enrol and attend that class, it doesn’t hurt to know a little bit about labour and what to expect.
Tips For Dad-To-Be To Prepare For Labour
1. Understand ‘True Labour’
Towards the end of pregnancy it is not uncommon for women to experience what is known as ‘Braxton Hicks’. It is a tightening of the stomach and they are mostly painless. They start out strong but taper off. They can sometimes be confused with early stage contractions.
So what are the signs of early labour?
- Waters breaking
- Lower back pain
- Regular contractions that become longer and closer together
- Loss of the mucus plug
2. Learn How To Time Contractions
Be sure to have a watch or the timer on your phone that counts in seconds. You want to record how long a contraction is lasting for.
Make sure you have a timer that starts at the beginning of the contraction and ends once the pain stops.
You then need to record the frequency, start the clock at the beginning of the contraction and stop the clock at the beginning of the next.
In the early stages of labour it’s important you have this information for your healthcare practitioner. For example, so you can tell them the contractions are lasting 30 seconds and are coming every five minutes.
3. Understand The Stages Of Labour
Usually labour is a lengthy journey, especially for first-time mothers. It’s very rarely an event that is over within an hour although it does happen. As such, it’s helpful to understand the different stages of labour.
The first stage of labour consists of three parts:
1. Early phase: Throughout this early stage you want to try and refrain from heading straight to the hospital. Remain calm and help distract her from the contractions. As this phase progresses the contractions will become closer together and more intense.
2. Active Phase: Contractions are more intense, lasting up to a minute and coming on every three minutes. You ideally want to be at the hospital by now.
3. Transition Phase: Emotionally the most difficult part of labour. Do not be surprised if your wife swears and curses at you, it’s not personal.
This is where mum has transitioned and is now ready to push and birth her baby. She will become an animalistic powerhouse and have powers of a super human.
While you will be in awe of her ability, you also need to think about a few things here as things can move quite quickly.
Do you want to film or photograph the birth? Will you cut the cord? If you want immediate skin-to-skin contact, be sure to let doctors and midwives know so they can facilitate this.
Often a stage that even mothers forget to prepare for. But your wife will need to birth the placenta. Throughout this stage your wife may feel cold, get the shakes or chills. Be sure to offer warmth.
Birthing the placenta is usually over within 5 to 10 minutes. If you and your wife have plans for her placenta, be sure to advise the hospital.
4. Active Involvement
While your wife is in labour, it is up to you to help. Remind her to keep her fluids up, coach her through her breathing and help to keep her calm. At times you will need to be her advocate and speak up for her.
If she has any specific and particular requests in her birth plan, you will need to be aware of this and ensure that the hospital is aware and stands by them (within reason).
Knowledge is power and the more you know about labour and childbirth, the more useful you will be to your wife. Ask questions, know your rights, prepare with your wife.
Whatever you do, don’t complain about how tired you are and you will do great!
In the meantime, read up about these things no-one ever tells you about childbirth.