Ah, the final trimester… You’re in the home stretch. The hospital bag is packed. The baby names have been chosen. You’re just about to pop.
Mothers-to-be know what to do: Count kicks, eat healthily, go for walks and wait for the contractions. But what’s a father-to-be to do?
There’s plenty of things father-to-be can’t do during childbearing – feeding your unborn child, counting kicks, and childbirth itself are just a few. But as a father to three children, let me tell you the one thing you should make an effort in doing: Counting kicks.
“How?” you ask? “What madness is this?” Read on; it’s not so crazy. And it could save a life…
Counting kicks saves lives
When my wife was about to give birth, I wasn’t up to much — just like countless other fathers-to-be. I watched and waited while my wife counted kicks, which I found a little silly. The baby was coming whether or not we kept track of his little stretches, punts and punches, I thought.
Nothing could be farther from the truth: Counting kicks saves lives.
The story of Marie Nicolas gives us all hope, but it also gives us pause.
“I was hypertensive hence my doctor asked me to count my kicks,” she shared.
“I had to make sure I count every few hours because the baby might be running out of oxygen due to my hypertension. This was the very reason why I rushed myself to the ER when I was 37 weeks pregnant. I noticed that the baby wasn’t moving and when I gave birth to him, he had sepsis.”
Marie credits counting kicks as an important part of her pregnancy journey. “If I did not count kicks,” she told us, “I would not have been given the chance to see my first baby alive, even for a short time. The second time, my water bag slowly tore, hence amniotic fluid trickled slowly.”
In the end, she gave birth successfully through CS at 34 weeks. Marie is now a proud mother of two.
Fathers-to-be can’t count kicks, but they can do more
Only mothers can count kicks. Fathers-to-be may want to join in, but only mums can feel the butterfly flutter sensations as well as the tummy-bulging flying kicks. What’s more, mums are in the best position to tell if something is wrong or not.
By the final trimester, they know their baby surprisingly well. Even without words exchanged, they are aware of their child’s moods and temperament.
Likewise, mums are aware if the silence coming from their child is something to be concerned about or if the baby is just taking a nap.
Even though fathers-to-be can’t count kicks, they can do other things. The idea here is to support your partner.
- Make it clear: You want her to count kicks.
When your partner knows that you share the same goals, it can galvanise her towards action. Tell her, in no uncertain terms, that you think counting kicks is important.
- Three words: Help, help, and help.
At this point in the pregnancy, your wife can’t get up from bed without rolling to her side first. It’s your job to help her out whenever you can. This can be as simple as helping her up off her back to taking care of all the housework so she doesn’t have to worry about a thing.
When you help whenever you can, you free her to do what’s important. And for now, that means, counting kicks.
For mum Nadine, support from her husband came from “Foot and back rubs galore!” Sometimes that’s all it takes.
Fathers-to-be can actually count kicks with mum
Though it’s advised that pregnant women be aware of the movements of their baby throughout the day, you don’t have to keep a religious accounting of every movement, 24x7. In fact, all you need is a few minutes every day. Here’s how to count kicks with your partner:
- Set aside some time every day to count kicks, starting around 28 weeks. Typically, this will take 10 to 15 minutes, but if it takes longer, it shouldn’t be any reason for concern right away. Your baby should be awake during this time (mum will know when!).
- Let your partner lie down on her side. Sit with her or lie down with her as she counts movements.
- Take note of the time it takes to reach 10 movements.
- If it takes more than two hours to reach 10 movements, or if the movements have dropped to zero, you should go to your OB for a non-stress test. In this test, the doctor will measure the baby’s heart rate to determine if everything is okay.
Counting kicks shouldn’t be a source of anxiety
For some mums-to-be, counting kicks can be a source of stress. To start, it’s not always easy to identify what exactly is a kick or a movement. Many overweight women have difficulty perceiving kicks.
Then the constant worry of whether or not your child is moving enough can weigh heavily on a mum’s mental health.
If your partner is stressed or anxious about counting kicks, your support can make a huge difference. Talk it over without judgment. Spend time together in an activity that has nothing to do with your baby. Remind her that you are there for her.
When she is feeling better, get back to the business of counting kicks. Remember, counting kicks can help to prevent a stillbirth.
Mum Francine, a nurse, shared her feelings of anxiety: “My baby's kicks were not within the normal limit. I [felt] fearful if I counted it, though sometimes I thought that maybe I just didn't feel it that much.
But I was also assured that my baby is fine inside because I [did] frequently check the foetal heartbeat and it was within normal limit.” If ever you’re in doubt, consult your doctor. Sometimes, there’s no better way to relieve your fears.
She went on to tell us how her partner supported her. “He was beside me most of the time during my bed rest period for 14 days and assisted me with my needs… He prayed with me every night. He made me laugh and that made my burden lighter.”
This article was first published in theAsianparent.