August 13, 2012
Journalist Nicholas Bakalar of the New York Times wrote an article that addressed a profound issue regarding pregnancy: Does Fear Make Labor Longer?
Over 2,000 pregnant women in Norway were given a questionnaire at 32 weeks to determine if they had a fear of labor. These women were then followed to determine how long they were in labor and according to the study, there was a 47 minute difference in the length of labor of 165 women who feared childbirth compared to those who don’t. Why is this important? It’s important because fear is something that we can control.
Three of the most empowering things a pregnant woman can do are request a tour of the labor room before she has a baby, take childbirth classes and request pain meds or an epidural if she experiences pain while in labor. When a pregnant woman is calm, the unborn baby is calm but if she’s writhing in pain, the adrenaline that she’s producing affects the baby and inevitably causes fetal distress. Prolonged fetal distress means emergency c. section.
One of my most memorable deliveries was as an intern during the late ‘80’s. Recording artist Anita Baker was very popular back then. I was astounded when a very “Yuppy” expectant father, pulled out a tape cassette and played Baker’s tape while his wife was in labor. He requested dim lights and held his wife’s hand as they listened to my favorite song, Sweet Love. Although I respected their privacy, I was never far from their room. His wife ultimately had a beautiful, uncomplicated delivery that left an indelible impression.
No, everyone doesn’t have to listen to Anita Baker while they’re in labor but they should do what makes them comfortable including receiving an epidural or pain meds if necessary. You don’t have to be stoic. Here’s a quote from The Smart Mother’s Guide to a Better Pregnancy that I’d like to leave you with: “The Force that moves the air within our lungs, the blood within our veins, is the same force that has created the life within your womb. The most important key to a healthy pregnancy is the consciousness that lies within. Your child will be shaped by your thoughts, your dreams, your values, your energy. You are the ship that will carry the baby to the shores of its preordained human experience. Please let the journey be smooth.”
You are smarter, stronger and more brilliant than you could ever imagine. Childbirth should not be feared. It should be celebrated.
June 15, 2011
Some of the most endearing moments I have witnessed as an obstetrician involved observing men in the labor room. There was the hip Jewish dad from Brooklyn who brought his Anita Baker tape and played it while his wife was in labor. Because she was one of my favorite artists, I was constantly in their room under the guise of watching the fetal monitor, just so that I could listen to the music. Another memorable moment was the dad who cried tears of joy when his wife was returned back to her room after having a c. section. The love and admiration that beamed in his eyes almost tempted me to ask him if he had a friend (this was of course, when I was single). The point is, expectant dads can play a significant role in helping their wives or girlfriends have a healthy baby. Here’s how:
1. Remind the baby’s mother to make certain she feels the baby move at least 4 or more times in one hour.
2. Make sure she knows what her blood pressure is at each prenatal visit
3. Make sure she keeps all of her prenatal appointments
4. Make certain her hospital bag is packed and she has all her important papers in one specific location
5. Ask permission to be in the labor room with her so that you can witness the birth of your child. It is a scene you will never forget and will bring you closer together as a couple.
6. Please don’t cheat on her while she’s pregnant. You could give her an unwanted sexually transmitted infection
7. Encourage her to push when it’s time
8. Rub her back in between contractions
9. Take notes when she’s in labor. If there’s a change of shift, make sure that the new shift knows what went on during the previous shift; particularly if she’s having complications such as high blood pressure or fetal distress on the monitor. One of the greatest risk of OB medical malpractice is miscommunication or a lack of communication during shifts changes. The proverbial left hand doesn’t always know what the right hand is doing.
10. If the nurses become concerned about the baby’s fetal tracing, ask that the doctor or midwife come to the hospital immediately.
The active participation of an expectant father is priceless. In the words of an old R&B classic by the Winstons, “. . . color him father; color him love.” Happy Father’s Day.