Am I in labour? There are many signs that labour has started, some are more subtle than others, and these will vary from mother to mother.
Here are just a few:
- A sudden burst of energy with a possible urge to start cleaning and a feeling that you want to start ‘nesting’
- Frequent Braxton Hicks or ‘practice’ contractions, which may feel like a hardening of the abdomen or backache
- A clear discharge from your front bottom
- Maybe having your bowels open on a few occasions, not your usual pattern.
- A ‘show’ – the seal of mucus released from your cervix
300,000 plus women, all over the world will be giving birth with you today. Relax, breathe , let go and let your body do the work.
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, Stay At Home as long as possible. Hospitals are boring places with little entertainment value. Most women will labour much better at home in their own environment, eating and drinking what they want and where they want.
Think about a code word between you and your partner for the birth day. During labour you may change your mind regarding pain relief or want to deviate from your agreed birth plan. A code word will let your partner know you really have changed your mind from your birth preference/plan.
Let your ‘mother-to-be’ instinct guide you during the labour and birth, and ask for a quiet observer, quiet words, gentle massage, a cold flannel, whatever it takes. Most importantly, positive whispers about your imminent arrival. ‘I wonder what they will look like?
Keeping calm and quiet will help mum to focus and bring her baby quietly into the world. Dimming the lights helps the baby to adjust to his or her new surroundings and open their eyes to look into yours.
Birth partners, mums will need you to act as their voice as they will be too preoccupied and do not need to be disturbed by someone asking questions. Know what her expectations, hopes and fears are and then you can truly represent her in the birthing room.
During birth, some affirmations from Sondra Ray which may be helpful
I can make it.
I can breathe through this.
I am completely safe.
I breathe fully and freely let go.
I am strong enough for this.
I am letting go.
Some affirmations for birth
I surrender with confidence to the wisdom of my body.
My uterine contractions are a sign of my feminine strength.
I trust in my innate wisdom and power to give birth to my baby.
The power and intensity of my contractions cannot be stronger than me, because it is me.
My job is to simply relax and allow the birth to happen.
My body has a wide open space for my baby to descend.
My body is indeed beautifully and Knows just what to do.
Labour is hard work and I can do it.
I will breathe slowly and deeply to relax my muscles and bring oxygen to our baby.
Some positive birth mantras to help you through your contractions/surges
My body is strong and beautiful.
Each day brings me closer to meeting my baby.
My body know just what to do.
My baby and I are working in perfect harmony.
As my birthing progresses my relaxation deepens.
Scouts’ motto – “Be Prepared”. Stay open-minded and flexible, and be prepared for her to change her mind as labour takes its own course.
Having difficulty making your needs known?
Remember there is always a senior midwife on duty, should you feel the need to have someone act on you and your partner’s behalf. There is a Supervisor of Midwives available to support you whether you are having your baby at home or in hospital.
LINK: Supervisor of Midwives
Whatever happens during labour, please remember that mum’s consent is needed for every aspect of her care and treatment.
Partners – be prepared to be the best supporting act possible. Partners can provide:
- Pleasant company and a welcome distraction
- Help for mums to change position
- Someone to fetch and carry
- Help for mum to practise relaxation and long slow out breaths to ride the waves of surges/contractions
- Gentle encouragement
- A witness to your baby being born and someone to share in this wonderful moment.
LINK: Birth partner
What can help during the labour and birth? PURRR:
POSITION – is she changing position regularly? Is she using upright positions to help the baby and herself?
URINATION – make sure she is emptying her bladder and urinating at least hourly
RELAXATION – is your partner as relaxed as possible? If not, help her by reassuring her, massage her and so on. Keep your voice low and keep talking to a minimum. Are you relaxed?
RESPIRATION – is she breathing evenly? Are you (as a birth companion) keeping your own breathing calm, and relaxed?
REST – ensure that mum rests between contractions/surges to conserve her energy. Ensure mum eats a little and drinks (you, too).
REASSURANCE REASSURANCE – mums need gently loving encouragement and praise from you. Ask the midwife to give you support too. Act as the mum’s advocate; you know how she wants this birth to play out.
(Adapted from a checklist for labour supporters, Antenatal Education, a Dynamic Approach, by M Nolan 1998)
This may help you reach decisions in the labour room/space
B Benefits of what is offered.
R Risks – are there any risks?
A Alternatives and then you can Assess if these are right for you.
I Follow your Instinct
N Nothing – doing nothing buys you time and lets the birth take its own course
S Smile and be polite.
(acknowledgment to the NCT for the above)
Helpful assertive phrases for birth
Mary Cronk is one of the most experienced midwives in the country. Have a look at her phrase book and maybe invent some of your own. If you feel the birthing mother is not being treated with respect or neither of you feel you are being listened to, these assertive phrases may make the difference.
LINK: Useful phrases
Calm and Confident
Think of some positive images for you and your partner to focus on during labour, such as holding your baby, looking into your new baby’s eyes and so on. Remember, when mum looks into your eyes she wants to see confidence. If you are worried that this may be an issue, seek support for yourself now.
Women need to be instinctual during labour. Talking too much might inhibit her and stall the birth. Support her to slow down – she knows her body better than anyone. Be her advocate so she can focus on giving birth with minimal disturbance.
Saying “YES” helps her to remain positive and focused on what she is doing in that instant. This enables her to go with the contraction rather than fight it and encourages a “We can do this” attitude.
When mum is fully dilated and just before the pushing begins mums often express that they have changed their minds and don’t want a baby after all, or just can’t go on. Great news! – the baby is about to make an appearance, so let her know that this is the moment you have all been waiting for and that she can do it.
A beautiful homebirth in pictures:
Baby’s about to make his/her first appearance.
Maybe think about dimming the lights and keeping everything as quiet and calm as possible. Allow mum to take up whatever position she wants. Long slow out breaths focusing on your baby Listen to your midwife , she is there to support mum and baby.
Woolly socks at the ready!!
Keeping warm after baby is born helps the love hormone oxytocin to peak and mum’s milk to flow. Pack woolly socks and a warm blanket to keep mum warm and to help her feel safe and secure. Ensure mum stays warm after the birth, as this aids with the separation and delivery of the placenta.
Skin to skin, heart to heart
Help your baby make the adjustment to its arrival by offering ‘skin to skin’ in the arms of the people it has been waiting to meet. Baby’s skin on mum or dad’s skin, keeps baby warm, helps their breathing, calms, soothes and regulates their heart rate and nervous system.
LINK: Skin to skin
Born too soon
If your baby is premature, many neonatal units encourage ‘kangaroo care,’ or skin to skin for baby and mum. It doesn’t have to be in the first few hours, as it can still really help in the first few days and weeks. If things are getting a bit busy and baby seems unsettled, perhaps some quiet time ‘skin to skin’ might have a calming effect.
Immediately after the baby is born
Skin to skin immediately after birth helps to calm mum and baby.
Cuddling and holding your baby calms your baby and helps you to get to know each other.
Keep the environment quiet, warm and use dim lighting, if possible.
Wait for the placenta to be delivered.
Congratulations – you are new parents!
If possible, in the unique time following your baby’s birth, keep the lights low, keep it calm and warm and greet your baby. ‘Skin to skin,’ mum or dad’s bare chest on baby’s bare chest and allow your baby to make eye contact for the first time.
The Golden Hour following your baby’s birth.
In the hour following your baby’s arrival try to keep all quiet and calm for mum and baby if you can. This will optimise the third stage – the arrival of the placenta. Baby at the breast will also help this process.
Your baby’s birth is not fully over until the placenta is delivered.
Have you thought about how you would like this to be managed?
Do you want to wait until the cord has stopped pulsating?
Do you want the injection to expel your placenta?
Your baby’s placenta is a wonderful organ which has nourished and fed your baby for the past 40 weeks or so. Babies are not born hungry as they have been putting on weight for the last few weeks before being born. Think of your placenta as having “packed a picnic” for your little one’s journey into the world.
All babies in the UK are offered Vitamin K at birth but you do not have to accept it for your little one.
If you do wish your baby to have it, they can have Vitamin K by an injection into their thigh or by mouth drops.
It’s true to say that some babies arrive in the world exhausted and not so hungry, but in need of lots of love and cuddles whilst they acclimatise to their new home. Keep baby close to mum and offer ‘skin to skin,’ to help introduce breastfeeding in a relaxed way.
Routine baby checks
- A doctor or midwife will listen to her heart and test some of her reflexes.
- Her hip joints will be checked.
- Vitamin K injection or oral will be offered shortly after the birth
- The Apgar test scores breathing, colour, muscle tone, reflexes and heart rate. Commonly, it’s carried out at between one and five minutes after the birth, and sometimes twice.
- Your baby will be weighed and measured. This does not have to happen immediately after birth but in the first couple of hours, allowing you time to welcome you little one
LINK: Apgar score
Newborn babies needs are simple, Love, Milk, Warmth and the Security of a parent’s arms.
You cannot spoil your baby by holding him/her – you are providing everything your baby needs. Placing your newborn their skin on your skin is proven to help calm and regulate your baby’s temperature, nervous system and heart rate after being born.
Dads, you can do this too! A great way to welcome your baby to the world!
LINK: Skin to skin
Many parents are surprised to see how alert a newborn really is. Right after birth, a newborn’s eyes are open and babies spend a lot of time studying faces — especially their parents’. Your baby may turn or react to the sound of your voices. Your baby is using all of the senses, including smell and touch, to further identify and become attached to you.