Delivery room: how to prepare for childbirth

Your due date is approaching. You are starting to pack your maternity suitcase, and your questions about the big day are starting to arise. How will the birth occur? What will the birth room look like? Find out how your future birth will unfold in the birth room and demystify a place that is sometimes a source of anxiety for parents.

The so-called labour phase in the delivery room

The birth room generally raises many questions. Who will be present during the birth? What is the purpose of the equipment? How does the birth occur?

The roles of the midwife and the accompanying person

The big day has arrived; the parents are entering the maternity ward. This unique moment when the parents meet their child for the first time occurs in the birth room, also called the delivery room.

During a vaginal delivery, between four and five people are involved in the birth room.

The mother may be accompanied by the father or a relative of her choice. Only one accompanying person is allowed in the birth room. Their role is to reassure the mother-to-be and to take over the care of the baby from the midwife and childcare assistant.

During the child's birth, the partner can, if he wishes, cut the umbilical cord.

One of the midwives on duty welcomes and monitors the mother in the delivery room. She manages the installation of the equipment, such as the monitoring system on the mother's belly, which measures the baby's heart rate and the intensity of the contractions.

During this phase, known as labour, the midwife reassures the mother, especially if it is her first child. She answers her questions to calm her anxieties.

The midwife also monitors the dilation of the cervix and frequency of contractions.

The anaesthetist's intervention

If the mother wishes, an epidural is applied by the anaesthetist when the cervix is 3 cm open. The anaesthetist gives a small local anaesthetic at the level where the needle is inserted, followed by the epidural catheter. Then, between two contractions, the anaesthetist positions the epidural, which relieves the mother.

With the midwife's help, the mother is asked to take a deep breath in and out to facilitate the anaesthetist's intervention.

On average, for a first child, the cervix opens by 1 cm per hour. However, these figures are theoretical and can vary greatly from one delivery to another.

Equipment needed in the delivery room

The birth room contains several pieces of equipment, each with a specific role.

First, the delivery table (or bed) is motorised to facilitate the most suitable position for the mother. Next to the bed is a bell, which allows the midwives to be alerted rapidly if a problem occurs.

A large balloon, known as a pelvic mobilisation balloon, is also available. Sitting on the ball, the mother-to-be can position herself to relieve her pelvis. This positioning also helps the baby to descend.

Some maternity hospitals offer a bathtub. This allows the mother-to-be to relax during labour and relieve her contractions. This equipment can no longer be used after the epidural has been administered.

During the birth, the contractions and the baby's heart rate are measured using a monitor. With patches, the monitor is placed on the mother's stomach.

The delivery room contains a sink for the medical staff to wash their hands to maintain the necessary hygiene measures.

All the instruments for anaesthesia and the equipment needed for the delivery, such as gloves and masks, are usually placed on a trolley.

A chair is available for the father or person accompanying the mother.

Once the child has been born, and after the skin-to-skin time, the staff check the child on the changing table and dress them in the birth clothes the parents have brought in the maternity suitcase.

The moment of birth in the delivery room

A multidisciplinary team surrounds the mother to ensure that the birth proceeds smoothly. Midwives, obstetricians and nursery assistants help the newborn to arrive under favourable conditions.

Midwives and birth coaches

During delivery, two midwives are involved. One accompanies the mother while the second watches the monitoring devices and the child's heartbeat.

This stage usually lasts a few minutes. After 30 minutes, or if the heartbeat shows any abnormality, the gynaecologist-obstetrician takes over to assess the situation.

With a caesarean delivery, the mother is installed in a dedicated birth room, accompanied by the father. The midwife, anaesthetist, nurse and gynaecologist-obstetrician are present to manage the entire delivery.

The anaesthetist can perform epidural or spinal anaesthesia. The obstetrician-gynaecologist then performs the caesarean section, assisted by a nurse. This is a rapid procedure to deliver the baby, lasting only a few minutes.

During the postdelivery care of the mother, the midwife examines the newborn on the changing table, together with the father or accompanying person.

After the birth, the newborn, wrapped in a swaddling bag, is positioned on the mother to promote skin-to-skin contact. This is an emotional moment that can last from 1 to 2 hours before the baby's first care, according to the recommendations of the High Authority on Health, and if the health of the child and the mother allows it.

The childcare assistant enters. Together with the midwife, they perform the first care of the child to check their muscle tone, weight, temperature and height. The childcare assistant also accompanies the mother in establishing breastfeeding. They stay with the parents from the first bottle or breastfeed, depending on the mother's choice, until they leave the birth room for the postnatal room.

A hospital worker then thoroughly disinfects the birth room and its equipment. Their role is fundamental to maintaining the hygiene of the birth room between the different deliveries.

The benefits of skin-to-skin contact

Immediately after birth, the newborn, wrapped in a nappy, is placed on its mother to encourage the first skin-to-skin contact.

This is a special moment that helps to regulate the baby's temperature and reassure them. The child recognises the smells and voice of their mother. Snuggled up against their mother, they rediscover the sensations in the womb with the heartbeat felt during pregnancy.

These are recognised benefits, which are strongly encouraged for both the mother and father. Skin-to-skin time now takes precedence over caring for the baby if possible.

Sometimes, the newborn child requires rapid care. Skin-to-skin time is then postponed but strongly encouraged, whether the child is in an incubator or the mother needs care after a caesarean delivery. The father can also take over and practise skin-to-skin with his child.

The mother and her newborn baby spend an average of 2 hours in the delivery room before being accompanied to the postnatal room.