From your kid’s first truly hilariously timed fart, to the moment they drop their first swear word, surprise will be a universal constant. But the surprises may start even before your kid gets into the world. Because, as the due date approaches, nobody really knows what your baby is doing in the womb. And nobody can tell you how they’re going to come out of it. Though, “not fully clothed” is a good guess.
Most births happen with as few complications as you’d expect (save for the sweat and crying and swearing … from you). But sometimes things can go sideways, including your baby. Preparing for what could go wrong now will help you be a better support for your partner if something does get odd.
Preterm Labor and Premature Birth
If you’re less than a month from your due date, this is one you really don’t need to worry about. The closer you get, the more likely your kid won’t have complications if they show up early. Unlike that friend who just makes things awkward as you’re doing final prep for the dinner party, which starts in an hour, Dave. Geeze. What’s your deal, dude?
However, premature birth can be one of the more dangerous pregnancy complications the earlier it happens. That’s because the earlier your kid arrives, the less prepared their body is to do stuff like breathe properly and keep warm. Depending on how early a premature birth is, you may expect them to stay in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) for awhile. There they will continue to get stronger until they’re able to do the important stuff on their own.
This is a medical term for breech position. It’s when your kid is all cattywampus (not a medical term) in the womb. They might be up in there ready to come out shoulder first, or feet first or even butt first, which is how you like entering when you’ve got your skinny jeans on.
Considering it only happens in about 4 percent of pregnancies having a breech birth freak-out isn’t necessary. Also, it’s highly likely the obstetrician or midwife will know this is happening before delivery. They can try different tricks to get your kid to turn the right way. If those tricks don’t work, It’s likely you’re headed for a c-section because delivering a kid in any of these positions could hurt your partner’s uterus or cause harm to you kid.
Umbilical Cord Issues
The umbilical cord is your baby’s lifeline. And just as your extension cord plays hell with your leaf blower style, the umbilical cord can wrap-up, or get tangled with, your kid. It can also get ahead of the kid. None of which you want.
One of the historically scary umbilical cord problems is called a nuchal cord, wherein the umbilical cord wraps around their neck. This happens in about a quarter of all births. The only time this might prevent a typical vaginal birth is if your kid’s heart rate remains dangerously low after contractions. In some circumstances where your partner can’t push the kid out, forceps or a specialized vacuum suction cup (yep) will be used to assist the birth. In other circumstances you may bound for a c-section.
Failure To Progress
It sounds like something you’d hear in a fraught political campaign; it’s actually a breakdown in labor where you kid just stops getting any closer to delivery. There are a couple of reasons this might happen, one of the more common being a kid with an overly large head (Cephalopelic Disproportion). If your kid has a head like an orange on a toothpick it might be time for a c-section.
The reason failure to progress is so dangerous is because the kid is being exposed to stuff they’ve been protected from in the amniotic sack. This could lead to infection. If a big head isn’t the issue, the obstetrician may try to get labor moving again through non-surgical means.
Because no one can know how your birth is going to turn out, be prepared to deviate from your birth plan and pay a bit more for prolonged hospital stays due to complications. It’s really okay. The most important thing is the health and well being of your partner and kid.
And while birth complications aren’t the best surprise you’ll receive as a father, they’ll definitely get better from there. Just wait until your kid tells you the moon is angry. Pure gold.