From Transition to Birth
Transition is the name given to the period during labour when the woman moves from the First Stage of Labour where she is just having contractions to the Second Stage of Labour which is where she pushes the baby out. Transition can often be detected by the dramatic change in your wife’s demeanor and constitution. She may start to shake and perhaps vomit. She may start to cry or shout, swear, get angry and scream. This is often the stage when women begin to yell “I can’t do this!” or, “I don’t want to do this anymore!” She may refuse to look at you and it may be hard to communicate with her, but try to reassure her that things are very close now and the baby will be there within the next hour or so.
Her contractions may be lasting up to 90 seconds now and will be excruciatingly painful, unless she has had an epidural, in which case she should be comfortable and you will probably not experience the screaming and shouting!
Hopefully her midwife or doctor will examine her at this stage and let you know how many centimetres dilated she is. You will be hoping to hear the magic number 10 or at least 9. Your wife will then be guided as to when she should begin pushing, or she may let the doctor know that she feels she needs to push.
If she has had an epidural then hopefully the doctor or midwife will have let it wear off a little so that she can feel the contractions and hence know when to push. If this is not the case and the epidural is still very effective, the midwife or doctor will let her know when contractions as coming and when she should push and for how long.
Ideally your wife will push as long or as many times as she can for the length of the contraction. You can encourage her along with the doctor or midwife, it is good to take their lead. Do not be discouraged if you start to see the baby coming down, only for it to disappear back up again. This often happens and it WILL come out soon!
This Second Stage, where your wife is pushing, will probably last anywhere between 30 minutes and 2 hours. You can encourage her by reminding her of this fact and that your baby will be out very very soon. If this is a second or subsequent child, this may be a bit quicker.
If she is on a bed then you will probably be up at the head of the bed, although the midwife may invite you to take a look when the baby’s head is coming out. Obviously if your wife is not comfortable with this then she should tell you and you should respect her wishes.
In some cases the midwife or doctor may ask you to hold one of your wives legs up whilst she is pushing. Encourage her to listen to the midwife’s instructions and help her to relax in between contractions.
As the baby crowns, your partner may feel a sharp burning sensation as the skin at the opening of her vagina starts to stretch and possibly tear. The midwife will be watching and will be doing her best to minimise any rips or tears.
In some cases where the baby’s head seems not to be able to get through, the doctor or midwife may make a small cut to help the baby out. This will be sewn up straight after the birth.
AND THEN – AND PROBABLY WITH A WHOOSH OF GUNK AND GOO – THERE’S YOUR BABY! YOUR SON OR DAUGHTER WILL HAVE MADE THEIR APPEARANCE AND YOUR LIFE WILL NEVER BE THE SAME AGAIN!
You will probably be asked if you want to cut the cord. This does not hurt the baby and is very simple procedure. Your wife will have told the doctor if she wishes for the baby to be put straight onto her chest or taken away and cleaned up. She may have a short cuddle with the baby and then they will take it to the side of the room to clean it, weigh it, and check its vital signs. The baby will probably be passed back to your wife to see if she wants to start to breastfeed.
See our section on Straight After the Birth for more details on what to expect after the birth.
The Third Stage
This is the bit you probably haven’t heard about! The Third Stage refers to the delivery of the placenta. Your wife or partner will probably have had an injection to speed this process up and to help with blood clotting. In which case the placenta will probably be delivered within the next 10 minutes. If she chooses not to have the injection it may be closer to an hour.
She will have a few more contractions and the placenta will be pushed out. The midwife will examine this and make sure that the uterus is coming down as it should.
Make sure you wife has something to eat and drink if she wants and help her to shower and get dressed if she is a bit wobbly on her feet.
Thank the midwife or doctors and celebrate!
And here is a top tip for the forthcoming weeks and months…NEVER complain about being tired! Your wife is infinitely more tired than you and will have NO sympathy for you!