Hello again, Dads-to-be! By now, you’ve gotten through the bulk of your partner’s pregnancy, and you are preparing for The Big Day! That wonderful and life-changing event is getting closer and closer, and you are probably getting a little nervous and wondering what to expect. We are sure you have questions, and Southlake OB/GYN and Advanced Surgery is here to help answer as many as we can.
Let’s talk about labor. It’s very important to know the difference between the real thing and false labor — also called Braxton-Hicks contractions. For many women, false labor can happen late in pregnancy. These pains start out very strong — just like real labor — then taper off rather than get stronger or closer together. Your doctors here have likely already explained false labor to you, or perhaps you’ve already experienced this with your partner. So how do you know when the real thing has begun?
One of the most important things to know about true labor how long it takes — it can be hours or even a day before the contractions are regular enough to signal that birth is approaching. During this time, it’s very important that your partner is hydrated and kept as comfortable as possible — that means resting! Keep plenty of water on hand and make sure she is drinking enough of it. If she doesn’t feel comfortable drinking a lot of water, try crushed ice — it can be easier to deal with for many women, and it’s what the hospital is likely to use to keep hydration up without causing discomfort or giving her one more thing to worry about while she is in pain. It’s also important to do all you can to help her stay in bed, or wherever she is most comfortable. When she does need to get up, she is likely to need some help moving around, so be ready to assist with that as well.
Her water may break. That’s a HUGE signal! Contractions will likely have begun and may have been occurring for a few hours before the water breaks, but this is a pretty unmistakable sign of what’s coming. “Water breaking” means that the amniotic sac that surrounds your baby has broken, resulting in anything from a trickle to a gush of fluid. For women who have not already begun contractions, the water breaking can cause spontaneous labor to begin.
Time those labor pains! The timing of labor and contractions is one of the best ways to know when the time has come to get to the hospital. A stopwatch or a regular watch with a readable second hand is all you really need to keep track. Time contractions from the beginning of one to the beginning of the next, counting in minutes and not seconds. Regular contractions that last 30 seconds or more means it’s time to call the doctor and let them know what’s happening. Contractions that are five or less minutes apart, last for more than 30 seconds at a time, and have been in that pattern for over an hour means hospital time.
The second stage of labor is where all that “pushing” happens. Her doctor will let you know when the cervix is fully dilated and that baby is on the move. Help your partner find the most comfortable birthing position, even if that means changing it up a few times. Be there for physical as well as emotional support, and don’t worry about being in the way. The medical professional who is assisting with the birth won’t hesitate to correct you or move you out of the way entirely, if necessary.
Be aware that this stage of labor leading to the actual birth can take an hour or more. And it’s possible you won’t have much to do other than be there to coach, support, and hold her hand — literally and figuratively. Your partner’s body will know what to do, and the doctors will help if and when they need to.
After all of that is over, your baby is born. That’s when you get to do the most important thing — hold your newborn child in your arms. That is the moment this all led up to, and it is the greatest reward there is.
If you have more questions about your partner’s pregnancy and the birth of your baby, don’t hesitate to call. We are here for mom and dad as they prepare for the big event!