Preparing and planning for labour
Ready for anything
Exploring your birthing options
Feeling confident when the time finally comes is all down to preparation and planning. Understanding labour means you’ll not only feel well-prepared on the day, but you can also help your partner decide on a birthing option that suits them best.
Your partner’s birthing options
There are a number of birthing options available to an expectant parent – the decision comes down to what your partner is most comfortable with, and what her and her midwife think is best for the baby.
- Hospital birth – the most common type of birth in Ireland. In hospital, you will have doctors and midwives on hand to help with specialist care for an added level of reassurance
- Home birth – if your partner would prefer to be in a more relaxed and familiar environment, there is the option of a home birth. Because there are fewer pain relief options at home, and a chance that your partner will need to be transferred to hospital if she requires emergency care, this decision should be made with your midwife
- Water birth – birthing pools are used to mimic the environment of the womb, meaning that the delivery is less stressful and less of a shock for the baby. Your partner can have a water birth at any of the above locations, even at home, where you can hire a birth pool for the delivery
Choosing a birthing option is entirely down to you and your partner, so long as there are no health concerns or complications during the pregnancy. And not to worry, if your partner changes their mind at the last minute, it can usually be accommodated. Just make sure you’re clear on what she wants and doesn’t want so that you can make decisions on her behalf when she’s preoccupied.
Spotting the signs of labour
There are certain signs you’ll spot when your partner has gone into labour, and although she’ll probably know, it’s worth you getting to know them too:
- Contractions growing in frequency and intensity
- Lower back pain and pain in the bottom of your partner’s bump
- A ‘show’ – a plug of mucus that comes away from the vagina
- Your partner’s waters breaking – although this happens at a different time in every labour
When your partner thinks she’s in labour, it’s time to call the midwife. Make sure you have the midwife’s telephone number to hand, in case you need to make the call for your wife. The midwife will be able to speak to you and tell you when you should go into hospital, unless, of course, your partner opted for a home birth. Using a contraction timer will help you keep track of the length and frequency of the contractions, and enable your midwife to calculate how the labour is progressing.
Getting to hospital
You might feel under quite a lot of pressure driving or accompanying your partner to the hospital, but there are ways to prepare for the big day:
- Look into different routes to the hospital in case the normal route is jammed
- Try the routes so you know how long each will take
- Check the parking situation and make sure that if you need to pay, you’ve got the coins handy!
- Practise fitting the car seat. A suitable rear-facing car seat is a legal requirement if you plan to drive home from the hospital, in any vehicle, including a taxi.
- Car seat tip: fit it and keep it in your car beforehand so there’s no chance of forgetting it on the day.
The hospital bag
It’s likely that your partner’s hospital bag will be packed and ready to go weeks before the birth. However, when labour kicks in, her mind may be elsewhere, so be sure to pick it up on the way out of the door, along with her birth plan and maternity notes.
Don’t forget that you’ll need some bits and pieces, too. You may want to pack a separate bag for yourself, including:
- A change of clothes
- Swimming trunks – if your partner’s having a water birth
- Basic toiletries – toothpaste, toothbrush, deodorant
- Snacks and water
- Change for car parking
- Any medication
- Painkillers – you may need them, as well as your partner
- A camera – with some battery life!
- Fully charged mobile phone
- A watch – ideally with a stopwatch for contractions or a the contraction timer
- Something for times when you’re waiting – music, a book or a magazine
Arriving at hospital
The first step when you arrive at hospital is for your partner to be checked over by a midwife. If she is in early labour, it might be a good idea to take her back home so that she can be in a more relaxed environment.
If you stay in hospital, she will be given a bed in an early labour ward where the midwife will go through her birth plan with her – make sure you’re part of this conversation, so you know what to expect. When the labour progresses, your partner will then be moved to the delivery room.
If you arrive at hospital when your partner is in full labour, she’ll be taken straight to the delivery room where your midwife will go through her birth plan with her. If things are moving quickly at this stage, you (or your partner’s birth partner) will need to step in, so make sure you (or they) know her preferences on:
- Pain relief
- Birthing position
- Skin-to-skin contact with the baby when it arrives
If your partner needs a caesarean
Some women find out they need a caesarean section earlier on in pregnancy, but if the birth is thought to be a risk to the mother or the child, they may be informed during labour. If your partner does need a caesarean section, it’s nothing to panic about. It’s a straightforward procedure that usually takes around an hour, and your partner will be in good hands. After a caesarean, it can take around six weeks to recover, so you’ll need to give your partner more help around the house and in caring for your new baby.
- Talk to your partner about which birthing option she would like
- Familiarise yourself with the signs of labour
- Take a look at alternative routes to the hospital
- Write a list for your and your partner’s hospital bag
- Get to grips with your partner’s birth plan
- Give your partner confidence that you’re prepared for the birth!
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