Being prepared is the best advice to anyone who is about to give birth. Knowing what signs of labour to look out for and having all your essential items ready so you can leave for hospital will help.
Going into labour where you will give birth
The signs of labour are likely to be easy to spot but if in doubt you can contact your hospital or midwife. You may start feeling contractions that become longer, stronger and more frequent or start to get an aching back, nausea, vomiting or a heavy feeling. You may have a ‘show’ either before labour starts, or early in labour or the waters breaking.
Some births can be premature and if your labour starts early or you have any problems you may need to go to the hospital immediately. Whatever the situation make sure you phone the hospital or your midwife and in the event of an emergency situation ring 999 and ask for an ambulance.
Labour can be painful, so it’s important to learn about all the ways you can relieve the pain and how your birth companion can help you. You could write down your wishes in a birth plan, but remember you may need to be flexible. Types of pain relief include self-help such as relaxation or breathing, positioning, entonox (gas and air), TENS nerve stimulation, injections or epidural anaesthesia.
Remember it is your choice and you may choose alternative methods. To explore alternative methods of pain relief contact the Institute for Complementary and Natural Medicine:
0207 922 7980 www.i-c-m.org.uk
Sometimes labour must be started artificially through induction and this is always planned in advance. Whilst we all hope for a natural birth sometimes an intervention will be needed and you should learn about these options in advance. They include the use of forceps or vacumn delivery or a caesarean section may be recommended. It is vital that you discuss these matters in advance with your midwife and your birth companion and also write them on your birth plan. Your safety and that of the baby will always be uppermost.
Being a birth companion
A woman going through birth needs lots of love, as well as practical support but you also need to look after yourself if you are a partner. Don't ignore feelings. If you need support, confide in friends and family, as well as your partner.
What happens next?
A nine-month pregnancy, labour and now having a baby will mean that life will never be quite the same again. It is natural to feel anxious or depressed right after your baby is born. This is sometimes called the ‘baby blues.’ Postnatal depression (PND), however, is longer lasting and more debilitating in its effects and you may need medical assistance.
Returning to a normal sex life should be done gradually and only when you are truly ready. Be alert that, contrary to what some say, you can get pregnant again almost straight away. Get rest, help and take advice.
There's so much to think about when you have a baby. The BBC site has expert advice on what you need to know before, during and immediately after giving birth.