It’s time to talk about poo, a subject you will quite likely become surprisingly comfortable with over the next few years. The baby’s intestines have now developed to the point that nutrients can be absorbed from the amniotic fluid that the baby is swallowing. At this point, most of the nutrients are still coming from the mother, via the placenta, but some are now passing through the intestinal system and arriving softly in the large intestine. That is where we find it: baby’s first poo, or meconium, as it is also called. More will be added during the rest of the pregnancy and it will come out as a little gift for whoever changes the first nappy (unless the baby poos in the amniotic fluid, or right when it comes out). It isn’t only poo that is new; the baby’s bone marrow has now also started helping the liver and spleen produce blood cells. Antibodies, which protect the baby from sickness when it comes out, come from the mother’s blood. Around now, you can usually also start hearing the baby’s heart beat with a stethoscope. It can be tricky to tell whether it is the mother’s or baby’s heart, but for every time the mother’s heart beats, the baby’s heart beats twice – so listen for that rapid little beat.
What are your thoughts in the run-up to childbirth? Has it started to feel real yet? As with everything else, how you feel will be very individual. You may long to meet your child, and to no longer carry an extra body inside your own anymore. Meanwhile, it’s also pretty common for childbirth to awaken some anxiety, and maybe even fear. If you are expecting a baby together with a partner, you might have started worrying that something might happen to them. However strange it might sound to someone else, it might be pretty alarming to watch your partner climb a ladder! It’s entirely natural to feel this way before childbirth, about your partner and about becoming a parent. This anxiety can be explained in part purely biologically: when the baby comes, you are vitally important for the little tot, and that’s why you want to avoid exposing yourself to danger. Getting used to not having total control is a major part of becoming a parent. Having a baby is a huge, life-altering event – probably the biggest experience you can have in life, and no one is unaffected by that. It can be good to put your feelings into words by talking to someone; verbalizing your emotions and sorting your thoughts can make it easier to avoid unnecessary anxiety. Your feelings will also be quite individual. Some people look forward to childbirth with curiosity, while others feel panicked at the very thought. If you tend towards the latter, it can help to visit the hospital and read about pain relief and the phases of childbirth. If your anxiety becomes overwhelming and impacts your daily life to an extent that limits you, don’t try to handle that yourself. Help is available and your doctor or midwife is the first step. They can provide information about therapy to interrupt negative thought patterns or put you in touch with a psychologist who might be associated with the clinic where you’ll be giving birth. Some places also have clinics that specialise in childbirth-related fear.
Worrying about childbirth is completely natural, even for the partner who will just be holding a hand and offering encouragement. You will undoubtedly have thoughts about how to best support your partner, and what it will be like to see someone you love in pain. You might also be worried about whether your baby will be okay. To some extent, you have to accept the feeling that you won’t have control, even if it feels awful. But there are some things you can do something about. Learn about everything from the phases of childbirth and pain relief to how to find your way to the hospital. These are good things that you can address already now, and usually, the more you know, the less worried you will be. Look up prophylaxis courses and informational meetings at childbirth clinics. Group discussions with other parents-to-be might also help; talking to others who are in similar situations can often answer your questions. Many people find it nice to hear that you’re not alone in your fear of passing out during childbirth, and it’s especially nice to also learn that it’s pretty rare for that to happen! But sometimes, information and accepting your worry aren’t enough; it can still be too much. In that case, you should be aware that as a partner, you can also contact your doctor or midwife to obtain tools to handle your worries, or to contact a clinic that specialises in childbirth-related anxiety. And remember: the vast majority of babies are born completely healthy!