Childbirth is an amazing experience, especially for the first time mum. But it can also be daunting for someone who hasn’t been through the process before.
For starters there is a group of strangers in the room with you at this most private of moments: who are all these people? What are their roles? What happens next? I hope this column will give you an overview of the process of childbirth and explain the crucial role that each member of your support team will play.
The following information applies to natural childbirths – either water or normal births. Caesarian births are by nature very different.
The most important person during your labour will be your midwife. Your midwife will provide one-to-one support throughout your labour using their knowledge to help you, support you and make the delivery easier. Sometimes another midwife is called in to assist for the actual birth.
Your obstetrician is another vital player, checking on you regularly during the labour process to make sure that both you and your baby are coping and aren’t in any danger. The doctor will be called for the actual birth.
Another important person in the delivery room is your ‘birth partner’ – your husband or partner, friend, mother or sister. Most women find it helpful to have a close supporter nearby during labour – they can hold your hand, help you with breathing patterns, assist you when walking around the ward (some women find this helps them to get more comfortable) apply heat packs, give you a massage and provide encouragement and moral support. Sometimes the husband or birth partner feels ‘out of their depth’ to begin with in such a different environment, but I believe having a birth partner in the room with you is a very positive thing.
If there are no complications, these are the only people who will be with you during your child’s birth.
However, if you should need an epidural, an anaesthetist will come in to discuss your history and carry out the epidural procedure.
If your obstetrician has any concern about your baby’s health prior to the birth, he or she may also arrange for a paediatrician to assist at the birth to make sure the baby is okay.
After your baby has come into the world, the cord is cut and the placenta is removed, the obstetrician will carry out any suturing which may be required. If necessary, this is usually carried out under local anaesthetic in birth suite.
The paediatrician will examine the baby within 12 to 24 hours of the birth. If your baby is healthy, then you won’t see the paediatrician again until you are discharged from hospital, which is usually three to six days after the big event.
During the rest of your stay in hospital the midwives will help you to learn all those important things about caring for your newborn, such as how to hold, dress and bathe the baby. Many mums, particularly first time mothers, also need the midwife’s assistance with getting the baby to breastfeed correctly.
Each day of your hospital stay, your obstetrician will check in to see how you and your child are progressing. They may suggest a physiotherapist to help if you have any problems with back pain, pelvic floor issues or general aches and pains.
Finally, your last visit with the obstetrician will be for the post-natal check, which happens approximately six weeks after the birth.
I hope that overview gives you some idea of what will happen on your big day, and the important roles played by each of the people who are privileged to share this special event with you.