Assisting dads and partners through assisted birth
It won’t be a part of the birth plan but intervention during delivery is surprisingly common. In fact, around one in eight births is made possible because of ventouse, forceps or caesarean intervention.
The rate of assisted births among first time mothers is significantly higher – around one in five deliveries – but the rate among women who are already mothers is significantly lower – around one in 14 deliveries.
The chances of having an assisted birth are reduced slightly for home births, those at a non-hospital birthing centre or, if having the baby at hospital, by avoiding an epidural. Aside from discussing these things with your partner, there is little else dads can do to help avoid or prepare for an assisted birth.
That said, there is enormous value to be had in educating yourself on what it entails, the reasons why assisted birth is sometimes necessary, and how to stay strong and supportive throughout the process.
Types of assisted birth
Forceps and ventouse are two of the most common methods for helping the baby’s head down the birth canal. In the UK, around 8% of babies are born via forceps and around 6% by ventouse.
Forceps are a type of surgical instrument although they do look suspiciously like high-end barbecue tongs. However, don’t let looks deceive you, they have been carefully designed to safely enclose the baby’s head so that the doctor can get firm yet gentle enough purchase to assist in ensuring the safe delivery of the baby.
A ventouse delivery is achieved using a suction pump with a silicone cap fixed to the end. This cap is carefully fitted to the head of the baby and then used to help it be safely delivered.
Both these types of intervention are considered safe; serious complications are very rare. However, you should be aware that there are some risks involved. The risks to your partner may include the following:
- Vaginal tearing – is repaired with dissolvable stitches
- Episiotomy – a surgical cut to the area of muscle between the vagina and the anus made in order to enlarge the vaginal opening. This is then repaired with dissolvable stitches.
- More severe vaginal tears involving the anus or rectum – this affects around 10 in every 100 women having a forceps delivery, around four in every 100 women having a ventouse delivery and around one in 100 women having a normal vaginal birth.
- Higher risk of blood clots
- Higher risk of postpartum urinary incontinence
- Higher risk of anal incontinence
Additionally, there are some risks to the baby. But bear in mind that doctors only decide to order an intervention if normal vaginal delivery presents more serious risks to mother and baby. Risks include:
- A bruise on the head. This fades after a few days but may slightly increase the risk of jaundice.
- A short-lasting mark on the baby’s head caused by the ventouse cup or a short-lasting mark on the baby’s faced caused by the forceps tongs.
- Around one in ten babies born via assisted delivery may have small cuts on their face.
The reasons for intervention
Doctors and midwives only decide to go down the route of intervention when it is clear that the labour is proving to be long and exhausting – a decision which is made in the best interests of both mother and baby.
Whether it is via ventouse or forceps, most assisted births still allow mothers to achieve a vaginal birth. However, in some cases circumstances may require a caesarean, which can come as a shock to parents and may necessitate a period of post-partum psychological adjustment.
Support through assisted birth
You can make an assisted birth more “natural” and more bearable for your partner by offering her your continuous support through the process and, importantly, through the postpartum period.
Never underestimate the influence of your support and reassurance. This is particularly true if your partner has suffered a vaginal tear or has had to undergo an episiotomy. Show her love and support now and your whole family will reap the rewards in the future.