Nine long months of pregnancy all lead up to the last few weeks of anxiety and worry about when labor will begin and of course, when the time comes to actually meet the baby! Those last few weeks are often filled with waiting, anxiety, excitement and of course analyzing every movement, ache and twinge to determine whether or not anything is a sign of labor starting.
The first stage often takes the most amount of time and for this reason, many women go to the hospital too early during this stage of labor. This stage on average takes from eight to twelve hours. So there is actually quite a bit of time that needs to be occupied during this stage of labor. Ways to pass the time include playing board games, going for a walk, watching a favorite movie, packing any last minute hospital bag items, and trying to remain calm while working through the early stage.
After the waiting game is over and labor has definitely begun, there a few very important things for Mom and Dad to keep in mind and do. Below are ten things Dad should do during labor, and ten things Mom should do too! Take the guesswork out of who should be doing what and read on to get the scoop on Dad and Mom’s top labor priorities!
20 Dad: Handle Any Family And/Or Friend Inquiries
Dad, take away Mom’s phone! She will be going through enough physically and emotionally and should not be responsible for fielding those well-meaning, but still annoying, “Any action yet?” “Any baby updates?” messages and phone calls. Consumer.HealthDay.com suggests the following for Dads, “You should also be the one to keep in touch with the rest of the family and screen phone calls while labor is in progress.” If there’s a time to be selfish, that time is now. Don’t feel bad providing only vague updates until you’re comfortable sharing any news. You can simply respond to any inquiries with, “We’ll be sure and let you know when the time comes and baby has arrived.”
19 Dad: Be Gentle & Patient
Labor can be a trying time for dads. Even the most prepared father can be overcome with emotions when labor begins. It’s important to remember that Mom is the one who is going to need the support from you, and so despite any anxiety you may feel, you’ll need to be gentle and patient for your partner. “You are there to support your partner; the medical personnel are there to care for her health. Your partner’s mental health during the birth is your main priority. Staying calm and sharing your strength and positivity with her is an important part of that,” writes TrimsterTalk.com
18 Dad: Offer To Help
You can help Mom out physically, too! Offer to give her a foot or back rub, ask her if she would like to take a bath, or help her change positions if she would like. TrimesterTalk.com suggests the following, “Being romantic releases oxytocin, which in turn, can speed up labor. Holding her, hugging and kissing her not only supports her but can help the labor process too. Just remember that sometimes, she may not want to be touched. This isn’t a reflection on you, but simply her way of handling the pain. For some women, touching can be overwhelming during labor.”
17 Dad: Help Time Contractions
Another way to help out Mom during labor is by timing the contractions. She will need to use her energy to work her way through them, so having you time them will be a huge asset to her. TrimesterTalk.com explains the concept of timing contractions, “The time between contractions is timed from the start of one contraction to the start of the next. The length of the contraction is timed from the start of the contraction till the end of the contraction...
In many labors, contractions start out short and get longer as labor progresses. For this reason, your care provider will want to know how long they are in relation to the level of pain, so they can decide how far your partner is into labor before telling them to come into the hospital. The longer you stay home, the faster labor will often go – changing environments too early in labor can slow down or stop labor.” There are many apps available to help you do just this. Look up Contraction Timers on your app store.
16 Dad: Remain Calm
With emotions running high, you might find it hard to keep your cool, especially with your partner being so uncomfortable. However, it’s important for you to remain as calm as you possibly can. Taking a birth class can help you be more prepared, and hopefully more comfortable when the time comes. BabyCenter.com writes, “One of the best ways to prepare for childbirth is to accompany your partner to a childbirth education class. Almost all hospitals and birth centers hold classes, and parents-to-be are usually given the option of attending two or three short evening sessions or one long daytime session. You can also choose to go to an offsite class, where the focus may be more on natural childbirth.”
15 Dad: Be Aware Of The Birth Plan
Birth plan? What birth plan?! Be sure and review the birth plan with your partner in detail well in advance of the due date. TrimesterTalk.com suggests the following, “During labor, your partner may be too busy concentrating to fully discuss what she wants or needs. Liaise with medical carers and ask questions so she doesn’t have to.” The birth plan will explain mom’s wants in terms of medications, procedures any other options that might pop up, so you will want to fully understand it. Though the birth plan is typically given to the delivery Doctor in advance, be sure and pack extra copies to have on hand.
14 Dad: Snap A Few Photos
You might one to chat this one through with your partner beforehand, but chances are she will want a few photos from labor to be able to look back on. On the topic of cameras during labor and childbirth, VeryWellFamily.com recommends, “Memories of the whole experience are enhanced with photos and videos. So a good camera and/or camcorder is a real essential, whether it is just your smartphone or something more substantial. Just make sure that you chat in advance about what your partner will want or tolerate of your recording efforts. And in the heat of labor and transition, you should not be directing the family video but helping mom through her labor process. There will be time afterward for photos and videos of you, mom and baby.”
13 Dad: Be Her Biggest Fan
This might seem like an obvious one, but you will really need to cheer your partner on and let her know how incredible you think she is...you need to be her number one fan! “A woman can become panicky during labor," says Cathleen Maiolatesi, a nurse at Johns Hopkins Hospital, in Baltimore. "And the best person to get her back on track with her breathing is her partner. After all, you know her better than anyone else." As the contractions grow more intense, reassure her that she's doing a great job and that you love her,” states Parents.com.
12 Dad: Take Care of Yourself Too!
As much as your partner will need your attention, don’t forget to take care of yourself too! You will need to stay energized, hydrated and calm so stay in tune with yourself, your needs, and your feelings. TrimesterTalk.com suggests the following, “This is one of the most important things you can do. To be there for your partner, you need to be awake, calm and comfortable. Eat regularly to maintain your energy...Drink regularly (as often as she does)...Find comfortable support for the long haul – avoid positions that will give you cramps or strain your muscles. Use chairs, pillows or walls to support yourself whenever possible.”
11 Dad: Pack Some Breath Mints
As silly as this might sound, it’s solid advice. You will need to be very up close and personal with your partner and the last thing she will want is for you to have bad breath. So absolutely do not forget to pack some breath mints or chewing gum! There’s a lot that you can’t control about labor, birth and parenting in general, but this is one thing that you can, and should control. Speaking of not being prepared, TrimesterTalk.com warns of the following things to be prepared for, “Giving birth gets gory. Your partner may even have a bowel movement as she's pushing. She'll probably make primal noises you've never heard before. Your job, no matter how unsettled you may feel, is to say this: "You're doing great!" Actually, she's not even paying attention to your words. It's your familiar voice and reassuring tone that she's tuning in.”
10 Mom: Labor At Home As Long As Possible
This is especially relevant if this is your first baby, most mom’s make the make mistake of going to the hospital too early. No matter how long the drive to the hospital, you don’t want to have to make it more than once while you’re in labor. ConsumerHealthDigest.com states the following and has some tips on how to stay distracted, “There is a likely chance that you might be sent home during early labor in your first pregnancy. It is not uncommon for first time mothers to make more than one trip to the hospital. The following activities could be helpful if you are in early labor – things that will keep you calm:walking, showering, resting, drinking fluids, listening to music…”
9 Mom: Try To Get Some Rest
Getting rest can be hard once your labor begins, as you will be going through a lot of emotions and of course, labor pains. It is really important to get your rest while you can, though, and it wil help the time pass if you are able to shut your eyes and fall asleep for a few hours. “Doula Jalana Grant, of Langley, BC, who is Western Canada director for DONA International, adds: “In early labour, I remind women to rest. Walks are great, but not to the point of exhaustion.” If you start labour at night or when you’re tired, and contractions are mild, lying on your side in bed can be a good idea — you might even be able to take a nap, or at least get some rest between contractions. A pillow supporting your stomach and one between your knees may help you feel more comfortable,” states TodaysParent.com.
8 Mom: Stay Hydrated
Keep the water flowing! This is very important throughout your labor. Buy yourself a cute water bottle just for the occasion, it will be a nice treat for yourself and give you a little something to look forward to. Get it customized with a quote or something to inspire you! Parents.com states the importance of hydrating up during labor, “Staying hydrated is vitally important at the end of pregnancy. You could go into labor at any time, and if you're fully hydrated when labor starts, you'll have far more energy and stamina than you will if you're dehydrated. Also if you're hydrated, you may be less likely to need intravenous fluids.”
7 Mom: Defer To Your Birth Partner For Support
Even in the stages of early labor, and especially as the process progresses, you will find that you need to rely on your birth partner(s) for support. Ask when you need support, and express your feelings and needs. Your birth partner will likely be a little hesitant in his/her offers to help as they won’t want to upset you in any way. By communicating your needs for support to them, you will be doing both of you a favor! Ask your partner to speak encouraging words if you need, ask for a shoulder or foot rub, or if you need them to be supportive by giving you a few minutes alone, express that too!
6 Mom: Create A Calming Environment
“Many birth books emphasize the importance of the birth environment. It's a key component when preparing for birth. And, it goes far beyond the location. To allow your body to open up and push forth a child, a soon-to-be mama ought to have a realm of peace surrounding her,” writes Mom.me. Everyone’s ideal birth environment will look different but here are a few suggestions for how to create a calming birth space; dim the lights, play soft music and use aromatherapy. If your hospital doesn’t allow diffusers, a damp cloth with essential oils wrapped around your neck works wonders!
5 Mom: Remember Your Breathing Techniques
According to DignityHealth.org, patterned breathing techniques can do the following; help you relax and improve your response to pain, help you feel more focused and in control, and improve oxygen flow to increase strength in both you and the baby. It can be easy to forget about this simple tool taught in many birthing classes, but it is so important to remember to use your breathing techniques to help you stay grounded. Ask your partner or birth team for guidance if you can’t remember your techniques. They can help guide you through your patterned breathing, in every stage of labor.
4 Mom: Try Different Positions
“Movement and positioning in labor work magic. Movement enhances comfort by stimulating the receptors in the brain that decrease pain perception. The result is that you are able to tolerate increasingly strong contractions,” states FitPregnancy.com. For these reasons, moving around and changing positions during labor will be extremely beneficial to you. Staying in one position is not only painful, but the more you move around, the more distractions you’re giving yourself from the pain. So change positions as often as you would like, and don’t forget to lean on your birth partner or team for support in doing so.
3 Mom: Be Flexible In Your Birth Plan
Most expectant mother’s will have discussed their birth plan ahead of time with their Doctor, and someone (maybe your birth partner as suggested above!) will have thought to throw a couple extra copies into the hospital bags. The most important thing to remember about your birth plan though, is to allow room for flexibility. “Keep an open mind and try to roll with the inevitable surprises that come with childbirth. Do this and you won’t be disappointed in the experience—or yourself. This is not just true of childbirth. It is true of motherhood,” writes Mother.ly on the topic of birth plans.
2 Mom: Know That You Are In Charge
This is so, so important, Mamas! Know that you are the one in charge here. This is your body, your baby, and your birth experience. Do not let anyone bully you into making a decision you are not comfortable with, emergency scenarios aside, of course! Babble.com advises, “You are truly in control of the medical care you receive—it’s your body after all! Don’t be afraid to get the information you are entitled to and stick to the decisions that are right for you. Remember that presenting your questions and concerns in a respectful and non-threatening manner will lead your caregiver to respond in a thoughtful and helpful way.”
1 Mom: Visualize The Outcome...Your Baby!
Through it all, perhaps the most self-centering thing you can for yourself is to visualize the outcome. Once you make it through the work and pain of labor, you will have delivered a teeny tiny little person that you worked so hard to meet! “Essentially, visualization entails using the mind’s eye to picture events. In other words, you show your brain what you want to happen, your brain gets the message, and then works to make it happen..” states MyPregnantHealth.com. It might sound a little crazy, but chances are you will be willing to try anything during labor to ease the discomfort of labor and delivery, medicated or not!
References: www.babycenter.com, www.americanpregnancy.org, www.consumer.healthday.com, www.trimestertalk.com, www.verywellfamily.com, www.consumerhealthdigest.com, www.todaysparent.com, www.parents.com, www.mom.me, www.dignityhealth.org, www.fitpregnancy.com, www.mother.ly, www.babble.com, www.mypregnanthealth.com