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First Time Labor: What Can I Expect for a Natural Start to Child Birth?


Updated December 31, 2012

Question: First Time Labor: What Can I Expect for a Natural Start to Child Birth?
I am a very excited, not to mention anxious, first-time father. My wife is approaching the end of her pregnancy, and so far it looks good that we will have a natural start to her labor. Truth be told, I am nervous about what to expect and what I should do. What tips would you offer for parents preparing for the arrival of their first baby? Thanks!

Depending on your birthing situation, you may intend on allowing labor to begin naturally. Always keep in mind that as the pregnancy progresses their may be some very good reasons for induction of labor or to have a c-section. Whether you get to experience a natural labor, and induced labor, or surgical birth, one piece of advice remains the same: be sure you communicate well with your care provider.

When First Time Labor Starts Naturally

Often the biggest question on dad's mind is, when should we leave the house and come to the hospital? There really is no blanket answer for this one, and you'll want to talk with the mother's health care provider on timing. She may have different suggestions for you to follow based on medical issues or traveling concerns. She can make you aware of various signs to watch for that can indicate when labor is imminent. When labor begins, you will want to contact her and keep communication flowing as labor progresses.

That being said, if you have not been given a specific time to leave for the hospital, the general guideline for women who are having their first baby is to leave when the contractions are three to five minutes apart, are each lasting at least one full minute, and have been happening for at least an hour. Just know that timing may be tweaked depending on your unique situation.

Tips for a Natural Start to Child Birth

As you prepare for the big time, you might want to follow some of these helpful suggestions.

Protect Your Bed and Bedding

Strongly consider removing any favorite bedding from your bed and placing a waterproof mattress pad on it. Statistically speaking, relatively few women experience their water breaking at home. However, for those that do, most of women experience it at night after they have lain down to relax.

Keep Calm

Though Hollywood often portrays the onset of labor as a comedic, energetic, and often chaotic event, your goal should be the exact opposite of that. Research shows that mothers progress more rapidly through labor when they are calm and relaxed during this early stage. Also keep in mind that, more than likely, once labor starts you have several hours of labor ahead of you. Take this time to get as much rest as possible, both of you will need it during the period of active labor. Avoid the temptation to call friends and family. Use this early stage of labor to rest.

Timing Contractions

Timing contractions is important, but do not let the clock become your focus. You will need a watch that also tracks seconds. Mom can signal you with a gentle squeeze of the hand or a cleansing breath. It is important to track how long one contraction lasts as well as the time between the beginning of one contraction and the start of the next. This information will be communicated with your health care provider.

Don't Necessarily Rush to the Hospital

Again, depending on your situation, you may want to resist the urge to go to the hospital too early. One, it can be disheartening to hear that the mother has not yet progressed far enough to be admitted. And two, research shows that women tend to progress faster in labor in the relaxed environment of their own home. It is not uncommon for labor to slow down upon entering the hospital.

Once the decision is made to come to the hospital, be sure to bring all that you need with you. Once there, you can expect that labor and delivery nurses will assess the mother's condition and determine whether or not she needs to be admitted.

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