Dad's Guide To Pregnancy For Dummies, 3rd Edition
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Becoming a dad is both an exhilarating and a terrifying experience. Planning ahead and being prepared are the best ways to handle what’s coming up in the next nine months and beyond. Doing what you can ahead of time, such baby-proofing your house and packing your hospital bag, will save precious time later on and help you feel like you’re in control (at least a little bit).

After the baby arrives, all bets are off as far as feeling in control, but you can still be prepared to take an active role in caring for your newborn and supporting your partner during the postpartum period.

Your guide to delivery room jargon

When you enter a strange new environment — like the labor and delivery floor — it’s normal to feel completely out of your element. When it seems as if everyone is speaking a foreign language, you may feel intimidated, overwhelmed, and ready to hide behind a newspaper or magazine so you don’t have to deal with feeling or sounding like an uninformed dad.

Most of the terms you’ll hear bandied about by the medical staff are fairly simple after you familiarize yourself with them. Here’s a guide to help you feel less overwhelmed and more in the know when you hit the labor and delivery floor:

Dilation: This is a number, from one to ten, that refers to how far the cervix — the barrier between the vagina and the uterus — has opened up. Dilation is expressed in centimeters. When the staff talks about being complete, they mean completely dilated, or 10 centimeters.

Effacement: Effacement also refers to the cervix, but it describes how much the cervix has thinned out, or effaced. Effacement is expressed as a percentage, such as 50 percent effaced. When the cervix is 100 percent effaced, it’s as thin as a piece of paper. A thin cervix usually dilates faster than a thicker one, which has to thin out first.

Episiotomy: Also sometimes referred to as a pis (pronounced “peez”), an episiotomy is a cut into the vagina that widens the opening to make it easier for the baby to emerge. Many practitioners no longer do routine episiotomies. It’s something for your partner to discuss with her practitioner before you get to the delivery room.

Hook: If the practitioner says, “Give me a hook” (no, they won’t say this to you), they’re planning to rupture the amniotic sac with a plastic hook that snags the membranes and tears a small hole in it. Called “rupturing the membranes,” this is done to speed labor, to attach an internal lead, or to check the color of the amniotic fluid.

Internal: An internal exam is a vaginal exam to check the baby’s position and the degree of dilation and effacement. If the practitioner says they’re going to “place an internal,” it means they’re going to attach a small wire to the baby’s scalp to monitor the heart rate. This is more accurate than an external monitor.

Meconium: Often called “mec” and described as thick or thin, meconium is the baby’s first stool. If the baby passes meconium in the womb, it can mean they’re under stress. However, the baby can pass meconium at any time during pregnancy, and the timing doesn’t necessarily indicate that the baby is under stress right at that moment.

Station: This term describes how far into the pelvis the baby has descended. Minus 3 means the baby is still floating above the pelvis and hasn’t dropped yet. The baby is on the perineum, ready to come out, at +3 station.

Stat section: This means either your partner or the baby is under stress and your practitioner wants the baby out, immediately. This term inspires a flurry of action from the staff, who won’t forget about you, although it may seem like it at first.

How to support your partner during labor

Women in labor need lots of support. Your partner needs to hear that she’s doing well, that things are progressing as they should, and that she really can do this. Even if her mother, sister, doula, and five of her dearest friends are with her, she needs you.

Support means different things to different women, though, and your job is to figure out what your partner needs while in labor and do it.

How to figure out what your partner needs from you

Your partner may not be in a talkative mood during labor, so asking her what she wants you to do may get you kicked out of the room. This is one time in her life when she wants you to think for yourself and take action. Take the lead by offering choices. Ask her whether she wants:

  • A back rub
  • A massage
  • A hand to hold
  • You to sit behind her and support her back
  • An epidural
  • You to kick her mom out of the room
  • Ice chips
  • To get in the tub
  • Any of the other labor options you discussed before today

How not to take your partner’s insults seriously

Women aren’t responsible for anything they say during labor, but you are, so don’t get upset over any suggestions your partner makes about your anatomy or her comments on your ancestry. And she doesn’t really mean what she said about your mother, either.

Pain makes people say things they don’t mean and may not even remember, so don’t file away her remarks for another day. Vocalizing the pain in this way is both healthy and normal. Because you’re not in pain, you don’t get the same privileges, so save the snappy retorts for another time.

Checking diaper contents for your breast-fed baby

Knowing how much food a breast-fed baby is getting is very difficult, especially when your partner is just starting out. To make sure baby is getting enough milk, keep track of wet and poopy diapers for the first week, taking note of the number and type of soiled diapers.

Comparing your notes to the following norms can put your mind at ease or can alert you to a breast-feeding issue that may need attention:

  • Every day, baby should dirty eight to 12 diapers total.
  • On day one, poop should resemble black tar.
  • On day two, poop should look like brown/black tar.
  • On day three, poop should begin to be greenish.
  • On day four, poop should change to greenish yellow.
  • On days five to seven, poop should be yellow. From here until baby starts solid foods, poop should be soft and may also be seedy looking.

Contact your child’s pediatrician if any of the following situations occur:

  • You see dark-colored urine after day three.
  • You see blackish stools after day four.
  • Baby has fewer than eight wet or poopy diapers on any day.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book authors:

Matthew M.F. Miller is a father of two and author of Maybe Baby: An Infertile Love Story. Sharon Perkins, RN, was a nurse coordinator for in vitro fertilization at the Cooper In Vitro Center for Hormonal Disorders. She is coauthor of Infertility For Dummies, among other books on women's health.

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