My husband’s cousin was admitted into the maternity ward at the hospital this weekend in preparation for the birth of her baby. She had reached full term and was going to be scheduled an induction. Upon asking my husband later that weekend how she was doing, he answered simply “she’s in labor.” Wanting to know a little more, I inquired what stage of labor she was in. He, like so many other husbands, has very little knowledge of labor and delivery, and his answer proved to me just how little he knew. My immediate thought was that maybe it was time I started to educate him on what was going to take place in our very near future.
With just five weeks until our due date, my husband’s demanding work/travel schedule and our upcoming move upon us, we don’t have a lot of open availability to attend a child birth class. Since I was a scheduled cesarean with our first born, I have absolutely no experience with any of the stages of labor. To prepare myself, for my trial of labor, I have re-read all my birthing books and I’ve done a lot of online research on VBACs. I feel somewhat confident in my own knowledge, but I’m convinced my husband will be completely clueless unless I help him out. So I decided that it would be in my best interest if I constructed a labor and delivery cheat sheet for spouses.
1. Know How to Time Contractions
Essentially, this is where I believe most partners begin to become involved in the birthing process. Nowadays there are so many mobile apps to assist expecting parents with this part. I personally have the Sprout app with a contraction timer for my iPhone, but you can use any watch or clock with a second hand.
In order to accurately tIme your partner’s contractions, start from the beginning of one contraction to the beginning of the next. Count the frequency of contractions in minutes.
The time from the beginning to end of one contraction is called the duration. The interval of time from the start of one contraction to the start of the next contraction is called the frequency.
If the expectant mother is having regular contractions that last 30 seconds or more, she is most likely in the first stage of labor.
Keep in mind, if her contractions are five minutes apart or less, last more than 30 seconds, and continue in that pattern for an hour, it’s time to head to the hospital.
2. Know the Stages of Labor
For most women, labor progresses over the course of several hours, maybe even days, so don’t expect to get to the hospital and coach your partner to start pushing right away; that will come once she is fully dilated and 100% effaced. It’s best to think of labor as a journey, not a destination.
There are really three stages of childbirth, but the first stage is broken down into three phases.
First Stage of Labor
- Phase One – Early Labor
- This stage has potential to be the longest part of the labor stages, but thankfully, it’s the least intense and painful. Most likely your partner will want to wait this part out at home until her contractions become more advanced and regular. This is the phase where her cervix will begin to open (dilate) and start to thin out (called effacement). As the early phase progresses into the active phase, this is when your partner will need you to chauffeur her to the hospital.
- Phase Two – Active Labor
- Contractions will become much more intense, lasting about 40 to 60 seconds, and spaced three to five minutes apart. The cervix will typically become dilated up to 7 centimeters at this phase. This is when breathing exercises, relaxation techniques, and your encouraging coaching are going to start being valuable. Your partner may ask for a cool washcloth to wipe away her sweaty brow or she may want a soothing back rub to ease labor pains. Give her whatever she asks and do it with a smile. Make it your mission to help keep her relaxed and as comfortable as possible.
- Phase Three – Transitional Labor
- This is the most intense, but thankfully the shortest stage of labor. It can last anywhere from a few minutes to an hour or two. The cervix will finish dilating from seven to ten centimeters and contractions will be the most intense, lasting 60-90 seconds with extreme peaks, only spaced two to three minutes apart. It is the most physically demanding stage and will most likely result in an extremely exhausted and possibly irritated partner. It is during this phase when she will most likely begin to curse like a sailor and tell you not to touch her….. but maybe not. Whatever you do, be supportive and coach her as she asks. If she doesn’t want to be touched, Don’t Touch Her! If she wants to squeeze your hands, Let Her!
Second Stage of Labor
- With dilation complete, it’s time to help mom push the baby through the birth canal. These contactions will be more regular, lasting 60-90 seconds, and coming every two to five minutes. You’ll want to assist mom into her pushing position, whether it be on a birthing ball, squatting, kneeling or on all fours, and hang on for the final ride. This could be a quick shot, over in a few minutes, or she could be pushing for a few hours. Try to help her conserve her energy between contractions so she will be ready for the next round of pushing. Once the baby is finally delivered, you’ll want sneak in a couple hugs and kisses to congratulate her on a job well done. Also, you will want to see your breathtaking little miracle of life and admire him or her in all their glory.
Third Stage of Labor
- Delivery of the Placenta
- Even though the baby is out of the birth canal and the hard part is over, the birthing process isn’t finished just yet. Mom will still have to deliver the placenta following a short period of contractions along with more pushing. The doctor or nurses will probably assist her by applying a little bit of pressure to her abdomen/uterus.
3. Participate in the Process
In the weeks leading up to your baby’s due date, make necessary arrangements to pack your own hospital bag. Remember to bring along any personal hygiene products, change of clothes, camera and/or video equipment along with any other necessities you’ll need.
Familiarize yourself with the quickest route to the hospital and be aware of the parking structure or lots surrounding the area.
During the beginning phase of labor, offer your partner water and juice to keep her hydrated. Remind her to eat something light. She might not be allowed to eat once she reaches L&D at the hospital.
4. Be a Good Coach
Know what to expect, be patient, try to help her stay focused and relaxed, and be a voice for her if she isn’t able to voice it herself. And most importantly, don’t be upset or take things too personal if she becomes irritable with your attempts to help her through labor. Giving birth is a long, hard job. Some women vocalize way more than others, and you might not like hearing what she has to say in the heat of the moment. Take whatever blows she gives and remember that it’s the contractions talking. If you need to, give her a moment of space then promptly return to her side with a willingness to help her. Just being there offering a word of encouragement and a hand when needed is enough to most women. Your presence matters to her.
5. Attend to Her Physical Needs
If she needs ice chips, you’re the man to fetch them. If she wants a massage, get your fingers cracking. Whatever she wants or needs, you be the gopher. Ask her what you can do to make her more comfortable, and then make it happen.
6. Change A Diaper or Two
A lot of hospitals today have arranged for mom and baby to room together from the very beginning. If this is the case with your delivery hospital, make the best of it. Let mom take the time to nurse baby or snuggle up with him/her while she rests and recuperates. When the time comes, make yourself useful and change a dirt diaper or two. The nurses will be more than happy to assist with this, especially if you are afraid of the umbilical cord or have never changed a diaper before.
7. Become a Swaddling Master
Mom is going to need all the sleep she can get to recuperate after childbirth, especially if it was an extremely long labor. One way that you can offer an awesome assistance is by mastering the art of swaddling. She will be impressed with your dedication and commitment to the wellbeing of the baby and by you doing so, you’ll prove to her that you want to be an active participant in the parenting department.
8. Enjoy being a Daddy
There is no greater joy for a father than to witness the birth of his child. Being present and active in the delivery process will forever be a memory of great joy in your life. You will talk about this experience over and over and over again. You will share the stories with friends, family and future children and grandchildren. Celebrate today with your partner and congratulations!!!
What would you add to this list?
Do you think there are certain parts of the delivery phases that is more important to have the support of the spouse over another?
Who helped you deliver your child/children?