Expectant dads need to know the signs of labor. It can help their wives or girlfriends prepare for childbirth and give them much-needed love and support.
One of the best ways that a dad-to-be can prepare for the impending birth of their child is to go with his wife or girlfriend to birthing classes. Generally, most hospitals and birthing centers have these classes, which are typically given in a single daytime session or in three evening sessions. Off-site classes are also available and include a focus on natural childbirth.
Before enrolling in a birthing class, however, it’s important for fathers-to-be to know what to look for so that they can better support their partner for the time when the baby comes.
Recognizing the Onset of Labor
Although later in pregnancy, women can experience Braxton Hicks contractions— contractions that mimic labor but are generally false labor. True labor includes a number of symptoms. Those symptoms include the following:
- The water breaking may appear like a gush of fluid. This is the amniotic sac breaking. When this happens, a woman can quickly go into labor afterward. Not every woman has her water break outside a hospital setting however.
- Lower back pain that may be continuous. Your partner may complain that the pain feels like cramping or a premenstrual feeling.
- Contractions that occur at regular intervals that grow shorter and can be intense.
- Passing of the mucus plug, which is in the cervix. This doesn’t necessarily mean the woman is in labor yet, however, but signifies that it will happen soon.
Using a timer is the best way to time your wife’s or girlfriend’s contractions. You can use your smartphone or a timer. Count how many minutes there are between contractions. If the contractions are regular, painful and last 30 seconds or longer, she is probably in early labor. If they last five minutes or fewer and last longer than 30 seconds, however, it’s a sign to go to the hospital right away.
Avoid Going to the Hospital Too Early
At the same time, it’s important not to go to the hospital too early. If a woman is dilated only one centimeter, she will most likely be sent home or told to take a walk until she’s in active labor. In that situation, it’s a good idea to go out for a walk or do something fun that can take your wife’s or girlfriend’s mind off of the contractions.
Stages of Childbirth
Your partner’s labor can last for many hours, especially if she’s a first-time mom. Generally speaking, labor itself is a journey that ends with your baby coming into the world. There are three stages of labor leading to birth. They include the following:
The early phase of the first stage is usually 12 hours long and include contractions that get longer and stronger. The active phase can last six hours or less and is the time when you should be at the hospital or birthing center. Contractions last 40 to 60 seconds, are more intense and can come every three to five minutes. Breathing exercises and labor coach assistance can help at this point. Your wife or girlfriend may also request an epidural at this phase of labor. The transition phase can last several minutes or a few hours. Your partner may yell or snap at you, but this is normal and you shouldn’t take it personally. Her contractions can last 60 to 90 seconds and appear every two to three minutes.
Pushing and the birth occur at this point. It can last minutes or hours depending on factors such as whether it’s a first baby and if your partner has gotten an epidural.
After the baby comes, your partner must deliver the placenta, also known as afterbirth.
Be Active and Supportive
Before the baby is due, you should ensure that you have essentials packed for the hospital so that you can be prepared once your wife or girlfriend goes into labor. Things that should be packed include a change of clothes and toiletries.
When your partner is in early labor, make sure she drinks plenty of fluids to stay hydrated. You can also give her bland foods unless the doctor has specifically stated that she shouldn’t eat while in labor.
Above all, make sure your partner is comfortable and be a good coach. You can give her a massage, stroke her hair and feed her ice chips in the hospital delivery room. Always be encouraging and tell her she’s doing great. You will be rewarded with your new baby and a happy mom at the end of the journey.