How to support your partner through a rapid birth
Just about every family has a story that involves a quick or unexpected delivery. These situations can occur anywhere: on a holiday, at work, in the school playground, at a concert, during a shopping trip, or, in some cases in the hospital car park or foyer.
Sometimes it’s a kind stranger helping out, other times it is a friend or colleague, but mostly it is the dad who has to stay calm and act quickly.
These are not just family myths, quick and premature labour does happen and it happens more frequently than you might imagine – around eight in every ten births is classified as premature (occurring before week 37 of the pregnancy), while around three in every 100 mothers experience births that occur in less than three hours after the start of contractions.
Knowing all this, it’s clear that it is important for you – the person most likely to be around when quick birth happens – to be prepared for all eventualities, but be careful not to fixate or worry too much in the process. Like so much in life, a fine balancing act is required and by informing yourself of the possibilities, but staying calm about the risks, you can help ensure you stay steady throughout.
Far from being the straightforward and relatively painless experience that many imagine it to be quick birth (also caused precipitate labour) can actually be a fairly traumatic event. No, your partner won’t just go pop and the baby will appear!
Once you think about it, it is not hard to see why. Giving birth in less than three hours requires everything to happen extraordinarily quickly. For a start, contractions are almost constant, whilst in a typical pregnancy they can last hours before your partner is even a few centimetres dilated, meaning that in a quick labour there is little in the way of rest which inevitably creates significant emotional and physical challenges for both of you.
What dads can do
First things first: if you have any inkling that your partner is in rapid labour, call your doctor or midwife immediately – if you have any doubts or feelings of urgency you may wish to call an ambulance. As for trying to get to the hospital, if things are progressing fast, it is probably best to stay put and to wait for help to reach you and your partner; there is probably not sufficient room in your car for your partner to give birth comfortably!
Although the process of rapid labour can be challenging it doesn’t have to be a negative experience. If you are there supporting and reassuring your partner, it can still be a safe and even inspiring experience for both of you.
Practical steps for delivery
The first step if you think your baby is coming is to call the emergency number on your maternity notes, or 999, if you are able (or get someone else to) as the staff will guide you through the coming processes and checks until help arrives.
If it all happens super speedily, you may be the one required to physically help your partner do the birthing, and one way you can encourage events to occur at a more measured pace is to remind her to pant or give a long blow whenever she feels the urge to push.
Try to encourage your partner into a position close enough to the floor for the baby not to be at any risk of a nasty drop. This may involve her sitting, kneeling or lying down.
If you’re attempting to drive your partner to a hospital, now’s the time to stop.
Gather bin liners, clean towels, sheets, anything that’s clean, to put under her and a bowl for the placenta.
If the urge to push is strong, your partner may have to just go with it, but don’t panic – she’s built for this and, together, you make a great team.
Once you can see the top of baby’s head emerging through each contraction your baby is crowning. Your partner needs to be strong now and push when she feels a contraction coming.
When the baby’s head has emerged, check that the umbilical cord is free of his neck. If it’s looped around, gently see if it can be moved free over baby’s head. If it can’t be moved easily, leave it and deal with it as soon as the rest of your baby is born.
The torso and limbs should follow with the next contraction – there is no need to pull –
calmly support your baby’s head as it is born to help steer him into the world.
When your baby emerges make sure you get a good grip on him – he may be slippery!
Dry him with a clean towel and then pass him to your partner who can hold him for that all-important first dose of skin-to-skin contact. But only do this if the cord allows it – it’s very important that the cord remains intact and attached to the placenta until help is at hand. Don’t cut the cord.
Oh, miracle of miracles, a child is born! Ding dong! Is that the midwife at the door?