What do I do when she goes into labour?
The baby’s coming! What to do? Don't panic - here's our quick checklist and action plan.
One. Check that it IS labour!
In the final weeks of pregnancy it is not uncommon for the pregnant body to have some warm-ups, which can sometimes mean women can think labour is beginning and then find it all suddenly stops!
The signs that labour may have started, include:
- Contractions (which keep going when she is moving around, warm ups tend to happen mostly when sitting or lying down)
- The amniotic fluid around the baby is released (known as the waters breaking)
- A bloody show (a blood stained mucus from the vagina)
However, it is also important to notice that mum may experience these symptoms and it does not automatically mean that labour has started.
Equally, your partner may only experience contractions at first, with no bloody show or waters breaking. Waters often don’t break until labour is well underway, despite what you may have seen in the movies!
Should you suspect your partner’s waters have broken, but there are no other labour signs, it is a good idea to let your midwife know so mum and baby can be checked to make sure all is ok. If you think the waters have broken and it is before 37 weeks, always seek medical advice.
Two. Time the contractions
Subtly keep an eye on your partner’s contractions and note to yourself how frequent they are, how long they are lasting, whether they look like they are getting stronger and if they are settling into a pattern. But don’t stand in front of her with a stopwatch like she is an athlete!
You can use an ordinary watch or, if you own a smartphone, even download an app to help you keep tabs. Whatever you choose, don’t get carried away with exploring all the features of the latest app or spend the whole time staring at your watch! It’s also important to remember that labours vary, and if your app tells you one thing, but instincts tell you something else, ditch your phone and listen to those instincts.
Three. Contact your midwife
When the contractions are 5 minutes apart, and are lasting for about a minute and have been in that pattern for several contractions, phone your midwife or hospital maternity unit.
Four. Have a bath
For her, obviously! If you think your partner is in active labour (check out Birth Basics to find out what this means) it’s a great time to run her a nice warm bath (or use the birth pool if you have one at home). Water is a highly effective form of natural pain relief, so if she is feeling any discomfort from the contractions this will help to ease that. Warm water can also encourage labour to progress if you are far enough along, and contractions may become more intense and closer together. So, Dad, once Mum is in the bath stay close by!
Five. Keep it relaxed
Now is also a good time to use any massage techniques you may have learnt, but bear in mind over 50% of women are not that keen on being touched while in labour, so check first and stop if asked. You can gently stroke her arms and her back, this will help her produce endorphins which are the body’s natural pain relief so may minimise or help prevent any discomfort. If she isn’t keen on soft strokes, try holding her hand or even firmly rubbing her lower back.
Six. Keep hydrated!
Make sure you are encouraging your partner to drink. Use those bendy straws from your Birth Bags, and offer her sips between contractions. The Birth Bag
Seven. If you're planning a home birth...
Stay with your partner and just continue to keep your home as comfortable and relaxing as possible while you wait for the midwife to arrive. Make sure she has privacy and keep the lights low. If you have a birth pool, help her to get into that if she feels she would like to.
Eight. If you're planning a hospital or birth centre birth...
Know how long it will take to get there and when you judge the time is right, off you go! On the journey, you are likely to be feeling exhilarated and anxious. It can be pretty distracting to be the chauffeur for a woman in labour, but stay focused as it’s important that you all arrive safely.
Once you get there, park as quickly as possible, but do everything with as least stress as possible - your priority is to keep your partner calm. If you have difficulty parking then make sure you leave the car somewhere it is not going to get in the way, and get your partner indoors keeping her as calm and relaxed as possible. You can always sort out a parking ticket later, and it’s better than missing the birth of your baby!
If it is rush hour or you get caught in a traffic jam and are concerned you won’t make it in time, you can call 999 for an ambulance.
Nine. When you arrive at the hospital...
Explain to the reception who you are and what is happening, and when you are introduced to your midwife show her and discuss your birth plan Birth plan: what's that all about?
Labour can often slow down when arriving at hospital, the more you can reassure and help your partner settle in and relax, the more likely it will resume.
Ten. Active labour and beyond
Now that you have support with you, wherever you are giving birth, keep attending to the needs of your partner and reassuring her. Keep the light dimmed and have some music gently playing in the background. Tell her how brilliantly she is doing and how much you love her. If you notice her holding her breath, encourage her to breathe and do it with her. Just be there, hold her hand or place your hand on her shoulder so that she knows she is not alone and wipe her face with a cold flannel if she is hot and sweaty from all the effort.
Your baby has arrived! This is such an awe inspiring moment and one where you can take some time to gaze at the little miracle you have helped create. Remember to get some photos of those first moments!
Your birth partner role is not quite over with yet as it is time to think about your plan for the first moments after birth regarding the third stage, cord clamping, vitamin K and so forth. Birth Plans.
Then finally you will be able to just sit together and enjoy some moments alone as a new family, before you go off and announce it to the world!