Looking after a friend in labour

By Stephanie Mair

As a student midwife, I’ve had many friends say, “When I have a baby, I want you to deliver it”, and I’ve always politely agreed and let that be the end of it.  However, when a friend of mine announced her pregnancy, one of her first questions was, “Will you be in the hospital in July?” I knew I wouldn’t be.  As her pregnancy continued, we had our Wednesday night ritual of watching One Born Every Minute together, and then at 34 weeks gestation, she said she really wanted me to be there when she was having the baby and was there any way it was possible? I really didn’t know, but I was delighted to be asked; what a huge honour.

I spoke to a lecturer from university to find out if I would be able to do it, and with the permission of the clinical lead midwife, it wouldn’t be a problem.  Before speaking to the clinical lead, I discussed it with my mentor, who told me that it’s very difficult to look after someone you know in labour.  It may have been my student naïveté but all I could think of was the honour and privilege. I was given permission to attend and, from 38 weeks gestation, I was on call.  At times it was a struggle. I was doing full days in university preparing for a presentation, coming home and looking after my daughter and then going to bed anticipating a call in the middle of the night, so I probably wasn’t sleeping properly.  Some days I wondered if I’d be fit to practise if I was called out at night.  It was a difficult position to be in, when your friend calls you with a pregnancy related question and wondering if you’re able to give advice.  It’s about common sense and knowing your limitations.  If she asks you if she can eat sushi, you know what to say, but if she tells you she’s bleeding or she hasn’t felt the baby move, you know she must go through the proper channels.  I also worried that when she went into labour, she would call only me.  Every time we spoke I reminded her that I wouldn’t be coming in until the hospital called, but she was, of course, welcome to keep me posted.

At 39+1 week’s gestation following an episode of reduced fetal movement and a growth scan raising concerns of intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) and a vaginal examination (VE) finding the cervix was already 1cm, induction was arranged for 39+3 weeks, if the baby was not born before then.  After one prostaglandin pessary in the evening and another the following morning, she was contracting 2 every 10 minutes and at 3 pm, a VE found her cervix to be 3 cm dilated and I got the call to say she was being transferred to labour ward.

My instant reaction was to go straight in. I had to be there for my friend.  I was already on my way in when my student midwife brain started working.  I could work for only 13 hours which would take me to 5 am.  I knew a primigravida could labour beyond then, what if I ran out of time?

Fortunately, I didn’t.  After an artificial rupture of membranes at 3.45 pm and a Syntocinon infusion, a 7lb 4oz baby boy made his grand entrance at 8.32 pm by spontaneous vertex delivery (SVD).

Reflecting on the entire experience, it was an absolute pleasure.  It really was the second proudest moment of my life next to having my own daughter.  Other midwives said that they couldn’t look after someone they knew in case anything went wrong, and although I could never truly pass comment on how that would feel  I would imagine the care and support to be just as special.

My friend is always saying how amazing she and her husband found the whole experience.  She said she had worked out in her head when I would have to leave, and she was as worried about me leaving her as I was.  Her husband also found it of great support and they both said that if they have another baby, they would like me to be there again, so I’m delighted they were happy.  I treated them no differently from any other woman in labour so it’s nice to get some positive feedback and I hope all of the women in my care feel the same.

For any other student midwives thinking about caring for a friend in labour, my experience was perfect, and from my perspective, I can highly recommend it.  Think carefully about it and discuss it at length with the mum-to-be.  Take advice from mentors, midwives and lecturers, and go through the right people for permission, and don’t be afraid to say if the situation becomes out of your depth; you can still be a birth supporter without being the caregiver.

I often think about the mums and babies in my care; it’s always a shame that you don’t see them again.  Now I’ll have the rare opportunity to see my 34th ‘catch’ grow up and I’m now enjoying my role as Aunty Steph.



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