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Pregnancy Guide
For The Expectant Father Or Partner
Labor and Delivery - The Journey to Birth
Labor and Delivery - The Journey to Birth
Find out what to expect when your partner goes into labor.
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Reviewed by the Faculty of Harvard Medical School

Labor and Delivery - The Journey to Birth

A common concern for many first-time parents is how to determine when labor is actually beginning. One good way to tell is by timing the length of (and the amount of time between) each contraction. In general, you should call your obstetrical care provider if:

  • The contractions are coming at regular intervals of 5 to 7 minutes, and lasting from 30 to 70 seconds each, and seem intense enough to prevent her from doing other activites while they are there.
  • Your partner's water breaks or seems to be leaking. The breaking water may occur as a gush of fluid that soaks the bed or her clothes. Sometimes the water trickles out, continually soaking her underwear. A little bit of moisure or mucous discharge from the vagina is normal late in pregnancy, however.
  • Your partner is experiencing pain and/or bleeding.

If any of these signs occur, don't panic. Call your provider and ask when and where they would like to see you. Together you may decide that you should be seen right away, or may decide that it is best to remain at home to see what happens with time.

If your doctor or midwife wants you to come to the office or hospital, be careful driving there and take the time to travel safely. While it is normal to worry about getting to the hospital in time, reckless driving is risky. Your partner is unlikely to deliver on the way. If you are going to be far from home, arrange for a friend or family member to be available to drive your partner to be seen. Calling an ambulance should be only rarely necessary and then only as a last resort. By calling when you notice the signs listed above, you will insure that you have the time you need.

Stage 1

Labor is divided into three stages. Stage 1 begins when there are regular, continuing contractions of the uterus that lead the cervix to start to dilate (open) and ends when the cervix is fully dilated to 10 centimeters. Your role during Stage 1 is to comfort and encourage your partner as much as possible. Stay by her side. Help her with the breathing techniques and other strategies you learned in childbirth classes. Sometimes strategies that seemed easy to follow in class, are hard to use when labor really comes, so don't be surprised if your partner seems frustrated or doesn't want to follow the birth-plan you'd agreed to in advance. If she is agreeable, touch her face lightly with a cool sponge or hold her hand during the contractions. Take your cues from your partner ... she'll let you know if you're doing the right thing. Recognize that she is may be very uncomfortable. She may ask that you say and do nothing, just support her with your presence.

Try not to expect more from yourself than is reasonably possible. You cannot speed up your partner's labor or make the pain go away. Your role is to be there to comfort, encourage and soothe.

Stage 2

Stage 2 is the "pushing" stage. It begins when the cervix is fully dilated, and ends with the birth of your baby. Continue to encourage and support your partner throughout Stage 2. The professionals present will present guidance to help your partner coordinate her breathing and pushing activities.

Stage 3

It's not over yet! Stage 3 is the delivery of the placenta. Usually this happens within minutes without much effort or discomfort. After your baby is delivered, your partner's contractions will usually stop.

If all is well with mother and baby, spend quiet time together in the delivery room. Your partner may work with the nurse to help start breastfeeding. Don't be discouraged if the baby doesn't latch on or take the breast at first. He or she may be tired and just want to sleep. You are likely to be tired too, but don't miss the chance to touch, hold and talk with your baby. to bond with your new baby through touching, talking and holding. Once your partner and your new son or daughter are resting comfortably, try to get some rest yourself. Both of you are going to need it!

Cesarean Section Delivery

Birth by cesarean section means the baby is delivered through an abdominal/uterine incision rather than through the vagina. This method of delivery can be necessary due to medical or obstetrical conditions relating to the mother or baby.

A cesarean section is routine but major abdominal surgery, so if your partner requires a cesarean section she'll need extra support both in the hospital and at home. That's where you step in. You can help as she needs to move out of bed and get around the house. She may need you to bring the baby to her for feeding. Change as many diapers as possible. If possible she should do nothing more than sleep, feed the baby (if she is breastfeeding) and shower once a day for the first several weeks.


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