When to go to the Hospital
It depends on each individual situation: pregnancy complications/high risk, first baby, distance from hospital, and personal preference all affect when you should arrive at the hospital. You do not need to go to the hospital at the first sign of contractions, and in fact it is better to stay at home in early labor as your wife will be much more comfortable. What’s a contraction? It is the periodic tightening of the uterine muscle that serves to push the baby out.
Help time your wife’s contractions and go when they are regularly at five minutes apart unless you live a long distance from the hospital, in which case you should leave sooner. In any case, it’s always best to call your wife’s doctor to check when you should go to the hospital. Other reasons (danger signs) you should go to the hospital immediately is if:
- Her water breaks or she is leaking amniotic fluid and it is yellow/brown/greenish or bloody.
- Baby is less active than normal.
- She has vaginal bleeding (unless it's just bloody show), constant severe abdominal pain, or fever.
- Contractions before 37 weeks (not Braxton Hicks contractions; see below).
- She has severe or persistent headaches, vision changes, intense pain or tenderness in her upper abdomen, or abnormal swelling. These are signs of preeclampsia.
You can help determine if your wife is in real labor or false labor. False labor, also called Braxton Hicks contractions, is a painless tightening in the lower abdomen. Women can start feeling these Braxton Hicks contractions in their second or third trimester of pregnancy, but they typically get stronger in the last month of pregnancy. They do not mean your wife is going into labor; it is just her body’s way of getting prepared. There are a few signs that differentiate true labor from false labor:
Contractions are regular and come at increasingly shorter intervals and become longer and more intense.
Timing of the contractions are irregular and do not become more frequent or more intense.
Breaking of waters that result in a trickle or a gush of fluid. Contractions may start before or after.
Contractions stop during rest, when mother stops what she is doing, walking, or changing position.
Passing the mucus plug. Labor could still be a few days away, but it is coming.
Contractions are inconsistent in strength (strong one minute then weak the next).
Persistent pain in the lower back, especially if accompanied by a cramping, premenstrual feeling.
Location of pain is in the front only.
How you can help during Labor
1. Know what to expect
Labor isn’t like what you see on TV. Women aren’t necessarily in pain and scream, sometimes her waters don’t break until baby comes out and almost always the baby doesn’t pop out shortly after labor starts. For most women, especially first-time mothers, active labor takes about 6-8 hours, but can go up to 18 hours or more. Every woman's experience is different. It might help you to understand the distinct stages of labor and how long each typically takes:
Stage 1 – consists of three phases:
- Early: this is where you can help your wife by keeping her distracted, relaxed and rested. It’s best to stay at home during early labor as your wife will be more comfortable and you can stay with her to help. Encourage her to urinate often. You can also time contractions, be sure she has her hospital bag ready and make sure you have transport to the hospital.
- Active: your wife should be at the hospital by now. At this time in public hospitals in Kosovo you are unable to be with your wife once she is admitted to the maternity ward, but we hope this changes soon! Studies show that women who have labor companions have shorter labors and fewer complications than woman who labor alone. Her contractions get progressively stronger and closer together.
- Transition: this will be the toughest time for your wife as her cervix dilates the last few centimeters.
Stage 2 – involves pushing and the birth of your baby. The average time for first-time mothers is one hour.
Stage 3 – is delivery of the placenta, usually within 5-30 minutes after baby is born.
2. Keep her calm
The more relaxed your wife is in labor, the easiest it will be for her. Distract her with a movie, help her practice relaxation techniques, give her a gentle massage, or encourage her to take a shower or bath.
3. Time her contractions
When timing contractions, start counting from the beginning of one contraction to the beginning of the next. You can use our contraction timer to keep track or simply write it down on a piece of paper. Do not worry about obsessively timing contractions during the “Early Phase” of labor, just check periodically to see whether they are getting closer together.
4. Don’t go to hospital too early
By timing contractions, you will know when to go to hospital. If it’s too early, keep her distracted with a movie or a walk, or if labor starts at night you could help her try to get back to sleep. Remember our advice above on what is real and false labor.
Doing skin-to-skin after Birth
If your wife has had a C-section, she will not be able to hold her baby skin-to-skin after birth. But maybe you can! Practicing skin-to-skin is very important for baby as it:
- Lets baby maintain body temperature better even than in an incubator.
- Helps baby maintain normal heart rate, respiratory rate and blood pressure.
- Gives baby good (higher) blood sugar levels.
- Baby is happier and less likely to cry.
- Baby is more likely to breastfeed exclusively and breastfeed longer.
- Baby can better tell you when he is ready to feed.
- You and baby bond much faster and stronger.
How to do Skin-to-Skin:
- Place baby naked, wearing only a diaper and hat, on your bare chest so that you are nestled chest to chest.
- Turn baby’s face to the side in a position that opens baby’s airway.
- Place blanket over the baby.
- Make sure you are comfortable as well; sit at a gentle recline (not lying flat or sitting up straight).
- Allow baby to stay snuggled for at least one hour after birth.
- Continue to practice skin-to-skin for at least three months.