Advice for Labor Partners: What to Do When Labor Begins

Going into labor is exciting, whether it's your first or fifth birth. It starts when the mother-to-be gets contractions or her bag of waters breaks. The contractions don't necessarily mean the birth is going to be right away -- but when the bag of waters breaks, you're on duty.

Here are some suggestions for how you can be most helpful now:
-- Use distractions when labor first starts. Suggest that your partner read a book, take a walk or watch a movie. Early labor will progress comfortably and normally if she is engaged in other pleasant activities. Sometimes your healthcare provider can estimate how long you'll have.

-- Decide when to head for the birth center or hospital (if you're not planning a home birth). Waiting until the contractions are five minutes apart and at least 45 seconds long has served most first-timers.

-- Keep her well-nourished and hydrated. Choose foods that are easy to digest (toast, soup, fruit) and clear liquids (water, Gatorade, apple juice).

-- Pack the car. Don't forget the car seat!

-- Stay calm and enjoy this momentous experience together.

Barbara Hotelling, BSN, CD(DONA), LCCE, FACCE, has been a Lamaze International Certified Childbirth Educator since 1983. She teaches childbirth classes, is a doula in Rochester Hills, MI, and is past president of Doulas of North America and Secretary of the Coalition for Improving Maternity Services (CIMS).

Harold Hotelling, Barbara’s husband, learned labor support during the births of their five children. He is chair of the Humanities Department at Lawrence Technological University in Southfield, MI.

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