Notes on giving birth

When I was pregnant with my first child, I wanted to do as much research as I possibly could. I read several books, although there were only a few that stood out and had helpful information. Below is the most important information that I wanted to remember going into giving birth.

Needs of a laboring woman

  1. Darkness and solitude
  2. Quiet, calm atmosphere\
  3. Physical comfort
  4. Physical relaxation
  5. Controlled breathing
  6. Appearance of sleep, closed eyes

For the birth support person: Help set up #1 and 2, help maintain #3, and help remind the person giving birth of #4, 5, and 6

What happens during labor

  • Contractions push baby down
  • Have an active period and rest period
  • Timed to monitor progress
  • Uterus is a bag of muscles squeezing baby out
  • Cervix opens and eventually dilates to 10cm
  • Baby moves through the pelvis
  • Pushing stage
  • May take position changes

Stages of labor

1. Active labor

  • Contractions happening
  • Longest part, most involved
  • Could be 12+ hours

2. Pushing

  • Birthing person will be doing the work
  • Support person can help by being encouraging, helping with position changes, emotional support, being present

3. Placenta delivered

  • Not much involvement from support person
  • Baby is out

Active labor

1. Excitement

  • Contractions happening on-and-off but don’t go away
  • Able to talk, laugh, continue normal things
  • Not the time to go to the birth center
  • Labor at home, go for a walk, distractions
  • Important to get some rest, but also not just lay there and be bored
  • Could take a few hours, could take a day or two
  • Not much for support person to do besides reassurance and spend time together
  • Get bags ready, maybe put them in the car

2. Seriousness

  • Contractions taking 100% focus, closer together
  • Can’t answer questions, no desire for small talk
  • Head to birth center

When to go to the birth center

When contractions are:

  • 60-70 seconds long
  • 1 minute apart
  • For 1 hour
  • Take an average of 5-6 contractions
  • Most people go in early rather than late, just be approximate
  • First children often take longer
  • Go by feel of progress

Going to birth center

  • Call when I think I’m in active labor
  • Contractions are starting, not going away, excitement phase
  • Gives them time to have someone there
  • Call again when we think we should come in
  • Helps them assess if I am far enough along
  • Avoids us going there and being discouraged
  • Once we are ready to go in:
  • Help get settled in the car
  • Pillow on lap
  • Pack last minute things
  • Everything should be done at this point
  • Drive carefully, no jerky movements
  • Support person can coach as they drive

3. Self doubt

  • “I don’t know”/“I don’t think I can do this”
  • Most work but shortest phase of active labor
  • Signals the end of active labor, pushing will be coming soon (30 minutes – 2 hours)
  • This phase needs the most encouragement, reassurance


  • Position changes may be helpful
  • Give it everything you have
  • Take direction from midwives if they recommend slowing pushing to avoid tearing
  • Minimize distractions


  • Baby will be out
  • Midwives will be monitoring for hemorrhage, placenta left inside
  • Breastfeeding immediately will help reduce risks
  • Likely will happen during skin-to-skin time
  • Nothing support person can really do here

Role of support person

  • Be present, reassuring
  • Be smart about jokes made/don’t upset birthing person
  • Back rubs
  • Keep heating pad charged, other things being used
  • Ice chips, water, keep birthing person hydrated in between contractions
  • Wipe sweat
  • Give praise, be encouraging, relay progress

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