Birth Warnings for Birth Partners

A partner’s desire to participate in the birth of their child is unpredictable. Some are afraid of how they would respond and would prefer to stay at the head of the bed. Others are keen to get involved and want to cut the cord and even catch their baby.

No matter how involved a partner wants to be, there are normal birth experiences that they should be warned about.   Often these experiences are not even discussed in prenatal classes and leave partners unnecessarily worried about their baby’s well being! Hopefully being prepared will enable them to stay present with the mother and the miracle they are witnessing.

It Can Take Time.

Even though the baby seems to be so close – the journey through the pelvis is long. The head has to move and mold to negotiate the bony pelvis while the muscles and tissues stretch to allow the baby to descend. A first time mother can easily push for a couple hours before the baby is born. I have sometimes explained this paradox, of why it takes so long to push the baby out when the baby seems to be “right there”, by comparing the vaginal canal to a newly purchased coiled dryer vent hose.   In the package it appears to only be three inches long but fully extended it can stretch 8-10 feet! Pushing something through that tube would understandably take a lot longer!

It Can Happen QUICKLY.

Especially if the mother has had a baby before. If it is your second child or you think things are happening fast, do NOT wait for the mother’s water to break before calling for help. Unlike the movies a baby often comes immediately after the membranes rupture. Plan to call your health care providers when contractions are regular and painful to ensure enough time for you to either get to the hospital or for your midwives to get to you!

The Baby’s Heart Rate Can Drop During Contractions If The Head Is Being Compressed.

This can be normal as long as it recovers by the end of the contraction. Most parents are unaware of this unless the mother is being monitored by electronic fetal monitoring. However, hearing the heart rate slow down can be alarming and then confusing when care providers seem unconcerned. Don’t be afraid to ask if you remain worried.

The Baby’s Scalp Wrinkles As It Descends.

It often looks like a hairy cauliflower or like pictures of brain matter. The resemblance is caused by the loose skin on the scalp being compressed and wrinkled as the baby descends. This will all flatten out as the baby emerges. However, you can imagine the alarm of partners seeing the head for the first time and wondering if their baby has a skull bone!

Babies Can Have Funny Shaped Heads.

The shape of the baby’s head and swollen scalp will change dramatically over the first 24 hours. When babies are born their skull bones are not fused, allowing them to mold and shape into the mother’s pelvis. The cone shaped molding can be very pronounced especially if the mother has pushed for a long time. Pressure put on the head by trying to push through the cervix can also cause localized swelling on the scalp called a caput. This swelling can be very pronounced if the baby is born by vacuum extraction. Either way, don’t worry as it will resolve with time.

Baby’s Are Born Blue.

Babies inside their mothers are blue and only turn pink as they take their first breaths and the increasingly oxygenated blood is circulated. It is a remarkable transition to watch as the baby “blossoms” before your eyes. Due to their immature circulation their hands and feet will often remain blue as getting oxygen to the core organs and brain are preferred. This will resolve as the baby’s circulation develops.

Tell me about you. What surprised you at the birth of your baby?

Sarah Cosman

Cosman & Webb Townships Organic, Bury, Quebec, Canada