Your upcoming labor and delivery can bring up a lot of questions. While it is almost impossible to know exactly how your labor will go, you can take the time to educate yourself on some of the possibilities that may occur during the process. Sometimes during childbirth complications can arise within the delivery room.
By taking the time to familiarize yourself with the possible complications, you can better prepare for them if they do occur. It can also be helpful for the dad to be or your birth partner to learn some tips and guides to help keep you both to remain calm and supportive throughout the possibility of these emergencies.
Possible Complications that Can Occur
While many women sit and make a birth plan of how they wish their birth to go, it is really up to your body and the baby on how everything will turn out. You can only plan so much until Mother Nature takes over.
Here are a few possible complications or emergencies that can occur during labor and delivery:
- Long labor- It is possible that your labor could last for a long time. The average first time labor lasts around 18 hours. However, once your water breaks you will usually not be allowed to labor for more than 20 hours due to the risk of infection. If your labor looks as if it is progressing too slow, your doctors may recommend medication such as Pitocin to help speed contractions up.
- Episiotomy – During an episiotomy your doctor will make a cut in your perineum, the area between your vagina and anus. This is done to make more room for the baby’s head during a vaginal birth. This is a fairly common procedure and is done on a case by case basis. There are three different types of episiotomies that can occur.
- Median episiotomy- this incision is made in the middle of the perineum towards the anus. The advantage to this type is that this wound has the best healing procedure and least amount of complications.
- Lateral episiotomy- is done from the side of the dam in the lateral direction. This healing process can have a few complications and is usually only done in rare occurrences. If no epidural has been given, a numbing cream will be provided.
- Mediolateral episiotomy – is a cut towards the side from the middle of the perineum. This is the most common form done as it involves less bowel injury and is usually associated with the use of forceps or a vacuum- assisted birth.
- Epidural – While many women seek an epidural during childbirth to help alleviate some of the pain, there are some that seek a more natural method without it. When you do get an epidural the medication is administered just outside of your spinal sac using a catheter. This catheter is threaded through your lower back. While this can help with the pain it is also a procedure that can cause a lot of fear in some women. The complication rate associated with an epidural is very small and there is no risk of a spinal-cord injury within the process.
- C-section – The average rate for cesarean delivery in the U.S. is between 20-25 percent. If you are a first time parent the rate is even smaller at 12-13 percent. The odds of delivering vaginally are quite high. However, there are complications that can arise that can make a c-section necessary. If your labor is not progressing after hours and attempts to help induce, if the baby or mom are in distress, if baby is in the breech position, or if you have a placenta previa (a low-lying placenta) then it is likely that you will need a c-section.
Tips to Help Cope with Complications in the Delivery Room
While it is hard to prepare for the unknown, there are a few helpful and healthy tactics to employ before you go into labor to help the process go more smoothly.
- Train yourself for contractions. Train your mind to view each contraction as separate. Once you are done with one contraction you will never have that same one again. You can remind yourself that each wave of pain or discomfort is working towards the greater goal of opening your cervix and your baby’s arrival.
- Trust in your medical team. Make sure to take the time to discuss your wants and fears with your medical team before labor. This will help to ensure that everyone is on the same page and to help instill confidence within your team. If you feel confident about their judgements then this will help you to relax and remain calm if complications do arise.
- Prepare for the pain. Knowledge is power. If you take the time to inform yourself of what to expect with labor and pain management strategies you can use them when you will need them most. Sign up for birthing classes at your hospital or a local business that offers them. You can even research different positions and breathing techniques to experiment with to help relieve pain. Preparing for what is to come will help to manage your stress levels throughout the process.
- Stay hydrated. It is important to stay hydrated throughout your pregnancy, but it even more important to during labor. Your body is going through a marathon during this process and you need to stay hydrated to keep your energy up. Before you get to the hospital you can drink water at home, however once you get to the hospital you may only be allowed ice chips. You can request as many ice chips as you like, it will help to keep your hydration levels up.
- Train your pelvic floor. By doing exercises such as kegels or a perineal massage, you can work to train your pelvic floor and perineum to hopefully avoid an episiotomy and have an easier labor. Doing a perineal massage three to four weeks before birth can help to prevent a rupture and allow the perineum to stretch naturally.
Tips for How Dad Can Help
Many fathers to be or birth partners can be scared throughout this process as well. They are trying to be strong for the mother-to-be, but may not know how to help exactly. Here are a few tips on how to help keep a calm and supportive environment throughout the labor and delivery process, this is especially important if complications do arise:
- Help her through the pain. Taking childbirth classes together, or doing research on your own can help you with her pain management. This may look like encouragement throughout each contraction and positive statements, massaging or applying pressure, helping her with a birthing ball, or using aromatherapy. By preparing ways to help make the process easier for her, you can work to create a calm and peaceful environment.
- Know the signs of labor. If you know how to identify the different stages of labor and how to monitor her contractions you can help to avoid going to the hospital too early. Sometimes going to the hospital too early in the labor process can draw the process out more. By taking the time to recognize where she is at in labor you can help to better prepare for what is to come.
- Be supportive and active. Make sure to have plenty of fluids and food available to her at the beginning of labor. Labor is like a race, you need to be properly nourished before beginning the race in order to make it successfully to the end. Make sure she is comfortable and try to be as helpful as possible. If she knows that you are there helping to take care of her throughout the process she can relax and focus on the contractions and labor itself. Encourage her that she is doing a great job and maintain a positive attitude throughout.
- Remain calm. If an emergency or complication does arise, take a breathe before reacting. Breathe and remain calm so that she can stay calm as well. You are her coach and she will look to you for guidance during this time. Taking the time to discuss what she wishes before labor and delivery if complications do arise can help you come to a decision easily and know what to do within the moment.
Try and remain calm. This is the one and only birth of this particular child, enjoy the journey that you are on. Stay focused on the prize at the end, which is that beautiful baby of yours.