At the fifth prenatal parent group meeting we were told to not come to our usual meeting place; instead, go to Uppsala’s Academic Hospital.
Everything suddenly became so real. The ultrasound brought the baby to life. Charting the growth of the uterus was exciting!
Going to the hospital where my baby will one day be born = slightly scary and exhilarating.
One couple and one expectant father did not show up to this meeting. The rest of us searched for where we were supposed to go….but luckily we had found each other 🙂
Eventually we worked our way down to a basement, and found the rest of the group. A midwife from Hjärtet met us there, introduced us to another midwife who works in the labor & birth ward, and then left us with her, while we got the grand tour.
We started by seeing the waiting room, where we were told that while expectant mothers are fed, there is no food for the expectant fathers; therefore, they are encouraged to bring their own food, label and date it, and put it in the fridge. Or they could go upstairs and buy food at the food court (if you happen to give birth during normal business hours).
Then we made our way to the bathing area. There was a large bathtub that expectant mothers are encouraged to go in while they’re in labor. There’s even enough room for the expectant father; although we’re told he should wear a bathing suit (apparently because the medical staff may walk in, and for some unknown reason, seeing a naked man, but not a naked woman, is unacceptable).
Then we made our way to a potential birthing room. It was dull and drab. The midwife pointed out that there were no curtains. And then pointed out that we should feel free to bring objects and entertainment with, since we could be there for several hours before actually giving birth.
We all sat around the rim of the room, while the midwife sat in the middle, demonstrating to us different tools that could be used, as well as different ways expectant mothers could use the room.
This was a very informative visit, and let expectant parents know what to expect, see where to go, and feel more comfortable in their soon-to-be surroundings.
Side note: Interestingly, nearly all of the expectant fathers asked various questions about the birthing process, the medical instruments the midwife described, and made joking comments, while only one expectant mother (Lisa) asked a question.
Second (cultural) side note: There was one comfy leather chair to sit on, while nearly all other chairs were hard metal (e.g. not comfortable). In typical Swedish fashion, no one took the comfy chair until the last couple came in. And then the expectant mother sat on the only remaining metal chair, giving the comfy leather chair to the expectant father….a few minutes later he got up and gave it to his partner.
At the fourth prenatal parent group meeting we discussed some of the complications and tragedies of childbirth.
Some people did not attend this meeting. While all of the previous meeting had been held in the afternoon, this was the first meeting held in the early morning. One couple came late (traveling from Uplands Väsby), one researcher couple did not attend, and an expectant father (who lives in Örebro).
All expectant parents who attended noted how tired they were.
Quick side note: The midwife always uses the term “pappa/partner” despite the fact that everyone is an expectant father, and one person will be an expectant grandma.
The meeting kicked off by having a child health nurse from the child health centers (barnvårdcentral [BVC]) come in and introduce herself, as well as discuss what the BVC is good for:
A place to visit while the child is 0 – 6 years old
Do child health check-ups (preventive work)
Growth and development
Weight and height
Offers parenting advice
Parent education classes during the infant’s first year
Then the midwife re-entered the room to start discussing the complications of pregnancy.
A rehash from the third meeting was stated–where expectant parents should stay comfortable prior to coming to the hospital via massages, baths, and doing other soothing activities (e.g. petting your pets).
When to go to the Labor & Birth Ward
We were instructed to go to the labor and birth ward not when the expectant mothers’ water breaks, but when she has had three contractions in the span of ten minutes. Each contraction, we’re told, should last for about a minute and will be intense and mildly painful (I say mildly only in comparison for what’s to come).
Prior to this, she may have a contraction every hour (or even more often), but if they are that far apart, there is no reason to rush to the hospital.
We’re told that the water breaking can be quite different for different people. Some actually have a gush of fluid come out of their vagina, letting everyone around them know they’re going into labor soon, while others have little to no liquids leaving their body.
Ways to Give Birth
There are a variety of ways to give birth–laying on your back, kneeling, standing up, in water, etc. In Sweden, we’re told by the midwife, that they encourage expectant mothers to walk around, to use their hospital room, to use a pilates ball prior to giving birth.
If expectant mothers are having pain, they can use epidurals, laughing gas, sterile hot water, acupuncture, and a few other things. Little information is given about the consequences of using any of these methods; although each method is described (e.g. how it works, how you feel if you take it).
A Normal Birth
We were told by the midwife that in most cases, parents have a normal birth, meaning that they do not need to have a cesarean section, that the father will cut the umbilical cord, and that the baby will immediately start to breastfeed, while the mother is topless (skin-to-skin contact).
Immediately following birth, the baby will be placed on the mothers’ chest, and be encouraged to start breastfeeding. After one to three minutes, the umbilical cord will be cut. We’re told that this will allow all of leftover nutrients still in the umbilical cord to reach the baby.
The placenta, we’re told, should come out within the first 30 minutes. If not, a procedure will need to be done in order to remove it.
The importance of breastfeeding immediately following birth and the baby’s first meal is stressed. Apparently there are extra vitamins/nutrients in the first eating that are stored in the mothers’ breast; therefore, expectant mothers shouldn’t try to pump breast milk prior to giving birth. This process could take a while, and complications do arise with baby’s potentially not having a good sucking reflex. Of course, mothers may also experience tender nipples.
The Fathers’ Turn
Due mainly to breastfeeding, after the mother has had the infant for about an hour, the father can than start to hold the baby, with skin-to-skin contact being the preferred method.
Some infants require birth via vacuum extraction. This can happen in one of two ways-either they put a suction-cup on the baby’s head via the vaginal canal and then pull the baby out using the strength from their hand (and only pulling when there are contractions) or to use an electrical machine that does basically the same job as the manual vacuum extraction.
Doing this, we’re told, will not damage the infant, but will leave a red mark (bruise-like feature) on the top of the baby’s head (where the suction-cup was placed).
Acute and Super Acute Cesarean Sections
While some expectant mothers will have a planned cesarean section, others, she warned, will have either an acute cesarean section or a “super acute” cesarean section.
The main difference refers to the amount of prep time doctors, midwives, nurses, and other staff have to prepare for the cesarean section. In a typical acute situation, the midwife said that they normally have about thirty minutes to prepare pre-cesarean. Life is less chaotic for the expectant parents and for the medical staff. However, if a “super acute” cesarean needs to happen, then it means that either the infant or expectant mothers’ life is in danger and the infant needs to be removed (for lack of a better word) immediately. In this scenario, medical staff have maybe up to 15 minutes to prepare, and the expectant parents’ hospital room is typically swarmed with multiple medical personnel, which can cause not only chaos between the two expectant parents, but also added stress, frustration, and alarment. Therefore, it’s important to be aware that this scenario could happen.
After the C-section
We were then warned by the midwife that after a cesarean section, the new father would be handed the baby, and they would be left to their own devices for probably 2-4 hours, while the mother is taken to an operating room to be sown up and recover from surgery.
Only after she’s alert again, will the father, infant, and mother finally unite as one family, and breastfeeding can then commence.
Since many expectant parents can have great amounts of fear regarding giving birth, it’s great to know what your options are and what to expect. This meeting provided a lot of useful advice.
Education, Health, Mental Health, and Public Policy