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Labour

Remember labour is a marathon not a sprint – preparation is key and you partner is going to need your support.

If you plan to be at the birth, be attentive to your partner. Try to make her as comfortable as possible and be prepared to fetch and carry for her.  Here are some ways you can help.

50 ways a labour partner can help  
In early labour, you can:  If she is too hot, you can:
1. Help her get ready for labour
2. Encourage her; say that she’s strong and ready
3. Make her tea or broth to drink
4. Make her something light to eat
5. Play cards or watch TV with her.
6. Suggest a shower
7. Suggest a nap
8. Remind her to relax and focus
 25. Wash her face and neck with a cool, wet cloth
26. Give her ice chips
27. Fan her face and body
28. Open a window
If she is finding it tough to focus, you can: If she has back ache, you can: 
9.  Reassure and praise her
10. Give her an object or picture to look at during contractions
11. Remind her of the reason she’s here (baby)
12. Suggest a walk or position change
13. Ask extra people to leave the room
14. Place your hands on her face and breathe with her
29. Help her change positions
30. Put a warm cloth or heat pack on her back
31. Put a cold cloth or ice pack on her back
32. Apply counter pressure with hands or tennis ball
33. Sit back to back with her so your backs can press together
34. Have her lean against the hurt with her own fists
35. Help her stand and lean against the wall
36. Help her get on her hands and knees and rock back and forth
If she has strong pain, you can: If her legs and arms shake, you can:
15. Remind her to go to the bathroom often
16. Help her change positions
17. With a light touch, massage her lower belly and thighs
37. Hold her steady so she feels more in control
38. Use a soft touch or long, firmly stroking her legs and arms
39. Rub her feet and hands
40. Put a warm blanket on her
If she wants to relax, you can: If her labour slows, or stops, you can:
18. Place a hand over her hand
19. Have her shake both hands in the air
20. Touch her and remind her to relax
21. Talk about a relaxing time
22. Play music to help her relax
23. Read to her
41. Talk about labour and encourage rest
42. Help her with nipple stimulation
43. Kiss her
44. Tell her how strong she is
45. Make sure she’s drinking water
46. Suggest a hot shower
47. Help her take a walk
48. Rub her back
49. Take her outside
50. Make her laugh

 

Help your partner to breath during labour. It helps more if you practice before the birth...

Slow paced breathing
This may help your partner stay relaxed. Relaxation is often the key to help your partner have control during the labour and birth
Ask her to take in air very slowly (either through her nose or mouth) and slowly let it out.

Modified Paced breathing
This might be helpful as her labour becomes stronger. It needs more thought and concentration and may help her feel more in control
This is lighter and slightly faster breathing than slow paced breathing. Ask her to inhale and exhale through her mouth and nose.

Patterned paced breathing
Useful in advanced labour particularly if she has been asked not to push, because it requires more thought and concentration it could help her sense of control.
Ask her to take three or four breaths in and out followed by one blow. The blows should be like those used to cool a spoonful of hot soup. If her urge to bear down becomes stronger you could encourage her to use just blows. When the urge fades she could try the three or four light breaths and blow pattern again.

Puff or blow breathing...
May be used with the pattern paced breathing if she has the urge to push and has been asked not to.
Ask her to blow as if she is blowing out a single candle.

Throughout labour encourage her to relax in between contractions; she might like to try the following:-

  • Using cleansing breaths at the beginning and end of each contraction
  • (Take a big deep breath in, let it all out, allowing the tightness to leave her body)
  • Focus her eyes and mind on something or somewhere that feels safe to her, or a pleasant thought
  • Encourage her to relax and let her muscles go limp so that her uterus is the only muscle working
  • Remind her to change positions frequently 

 

If the labour is not going as planned Don't Panic! Help your partner adjust to the changes. Ask questions, so you are clear why they are happening.
If either of you are not happy with events be prepared to talk to the midwives and doctors and let them know how you feel, and if necessary negotiate alternative actions.



Caesarean deliveries
Even if you and your partner have chosen in advance to have a Caesarean delivery she’ll still be anxious, because it’s quite a major operation. But if she has to have an emergency Caesarean after labour has started, she may feel distressed, bewildered and helpless. There’s much you can do to smooth the way for her. If she’s finding it difficult to talk to the doctors, make sure you find out exactly why they want her to have a Caesarean. Although she has to give her permission for the operation, she may still not be quite clear afterwards what the reasons were, so it’s important for you to help her understand them.

Caesarean under regional anaesthesia
Unless your partner particularly wants a general anaesthetic or the operation is too urgent, ask if it can be done under spinal anaesthesia. This means you can share the experience and meet your new baby together. You don’t have to watch what’s going on; you’ll both be shielded by the surgical drapes. But if you find the operation distressing or you feel faint – and many people do, even nurses – leave the room quickly. Don’t hang on; the medical staffs have enough to do without caring for you.

Caesarean under general anaesthetic
If the Caesarean is done under general anaesthetic, your partner may not regain consciousness for an hour or more, and you’ll probably be given the baby to hold for much of this time. Do cherish this very special time with your baby. Father – child bonding can often be at its best following a Caesarean section birth, because the early time you have together is so precious.


Helping after a Caesarean
If your partner has had a Caesarean delivery, she’ll need plenty of rest so she can heal and recover. She’ll need your help with lifting and carrying in the first weeks after the birth.

Sudden birth – the father’s role
Occasionally labour comes on with such speed that a mother is overwhelmed by the desire to push before her partner can get professional help, let alone take her to the hospital! Although the second stage can take a couple of hours, it may not, and babies have been known to be born after a couple of pushes. If it looks as if this is about to happen, there’s no need to worry – most emergency births are perfectly straightforward.

What to do first
Don’t leave your partner for more than a minute or two; she needs to know that you are right by her. Help her get into a comfortable position, then telephone the hospital or midwife. If you can’t get hold of them, call the emergency services and ask for an ambulance. Wash your hands well and get a heap of clean towels ready. Fold one and put it to one side for the baby. If you’ve got time, find some old sheets or plastic sheeting to cover the floor and furniture.


During the birth
Watch for the top of baby’s head appearing at the vaginal opening. When you see it, ask your partner to stop pushing if she can and just pant. This will give her vagina a chance to stretch fully without tearing. Feel around your baby’s neck to find if the cord is looped round it. If it is, hook your finger under the cord and draw it over her head. Hold your baby firmly as she emerges – she will be slippery – and give her straight to her mother to hold. Wrap her immediately in a spare towel so she doesn’t get cold. Don’t touch the cord. If the placenta is delivered before medical help arrives, put it in a dish or plastic bowl so it can be checked by the midwife or doctor.

Currently it is expected that expectant fathers will attend the birth of their children. If circumstances prevent you from being there, don't worry, you still have plenty of time to bond with your baby. If, you really don’t want to be present at the birth, it's important to tell your partner how you feel. She may well be understanding, and this will give you both a chance to find a birth partner, or doula who will be able to support her.


After the birth
You may feel as emotionally exhausted as your partner after the birth, but don’t forget how physically exhausting labour and birth is for a woman. Your partner is so tired she may not appear to experience quite the same emotions as you.

Your partner’s reactions
You’ll probably feel a wave of euphoria once your baby’s born, but, particularly if labour has been long and arduous; your partner may be just too tired to enjoy the same “buzz” immediately. Just hold her close and let her know how proud you are of her and of your new son or daughter. Stay with them both for as long as possible after the birth, and help get them settled into a postnatal ward.

Valuing your role
Be ready to congratulate your partner on her achievement, and let her know how much you appreciate her. But although all your thoughts will be with her, don’t belittle your own contribution and the support you’ve been able to give. You may think you haven’t really been much help – this is a common feeling for fathers who’ve seen their partner struggling through labour. Most mothers, though, say just how important it was to have the emotional support and encouragement from their partner throughout the labour and birth.

Saying hello
Take the chance to hold your baby while your partner is being stitched, or checked. Let her look into your eyes and hold her close, just 20-25cm (8-10in) from your face. She’ll be able to see you and smell you, and she’ll recognise you from the very beginning. Remember, too, that sight is not her only way of experiencing this new world, and that the sense of touch is very important to babies. Take your shirt off and hold her against your skin or gently stroke her – both are strong ways of bonding with your new baby.

Home alone
When you go home after the birth, leaving your partner in hospital, you may feel lonely and possibly a bit “flat”. Don’t worry, there’s plenty that you can get on with.

  • Get on the phone and tell friends and relatives the good news.
  • Take the chance to catch up on sleep. You’ve had an exhausting time too during the labour and you’ll be better able to support your partner when she comes home, if you’ve had some rest.
  • Fit a baby seat in your car, if you haven’t already got round to doing this. Catch up with the washing and cleaning at home and stock up on food, so everything is ready and welcoming, when your partner and your new baby come home.

 

Your first reaction
You newborn babies appearance may surprise you when you first see him. He’ll have wrinkly skin and you may think he looks more like an old man than a baby.
Some parents worry about how they feel when their baby actually arrives: he doesn’t seem to be quite what they’d expected.
Unless your partner had a caesarean, his head may be slightly squashed with some bruising and his eye lids may be puffy, because of the pressure of passing through the birth canal.
He may look quite messy as he’ll be coated in greasy substance, possibly mixed with some of your blood, and he may have patches of body hair. His limbs may be a bluish colour, and his genitals will look huge.
Don’t be disappointed if you don’t immediately feel love and tenderness when you first look at your baby. These feeling will develop as you get to know each other.