While mothers clearly do most of the work when it comes to delivering babies, fathers and partners can be extremely helpful during the birthing process as well. According to an article in Parents Magazine, called “Labor Support Tips for Dad,” “Just by being there, [fathers and partners] are providing [their] partner[s] with much-needed comfort and encouragement.” But what, specifically, can they do to help with birth?
We have compiled many tips from this and other parenting websites to help fathers and partners know how they can help on the big day.
- Be attentive: Look for signs that your partner may be in true labor (versus false contractions, or Braxton Hicks). Some signs of true labor include, but are not limited to:
- The passing of the mucus plug
- Contractions that occur at regular intervals and increase in intensity
- Persistent pain in the lower back
- Water breaking.
Call your doctor and begin timing contractions for your partner when they occur. For more information on signs of true labor, click here.
- Prepare: In the days leading up to delivery, make sure you and your partner are packed with everything you will need for your hospital stay. You may want to learn about the different phases of labor and watch videos of vaginal births and c-sections so you can prepare yourself mentally for them. Finally, drive carefully on your way to the hospital for the delivery.
- Distract: Labor can be long and exhausting for your partner, especially if it’s prolonged labor. If she wants a distraction from the contractions, the pain, and the anticipation, bring some of her favorite leisure media, – music to play, magazines to read, or a laptop to watch TV or movies on.
- Advocate: You can help your partner with the birthing process by knowing her wishes beforehand and communicating them to medical personnel. A good way to know her wishes is to discuss expectations and ask the OB/GYN questions before birth or when you arrive at the hospital. Of course, birth doesn’t always go as planned, so be ready to make changes and help your partner remain comfortable in all situations. Lisa Castillo, labor nurse at George Washington University Hospital advises that birth partners “feel free to ask questions about your options — especially if your wife is in too much pain to ask herself.”
- Coach: Help your partner with breathing, remaining calm and relaxed, and moving through the phases of labor. Be ready to help with whatever else she may need along the way as well.
- Support: Perhaps most importantly, you are there to cheer your partner on during labor. You can also show your support by offering massages, ice chips, adjusting the lighting, and doing other simple tasks to help her feel more comfortable.
- Respond: Listen closely to your partner’s requests and pay close attention to her silent cues as well. Some women may respond well to a back rub or verbal encouragement, while others may not feel like being touched or spoken to at all during labor. One editor for Today’s Parent suggests that “Being attentive and encouraging is great, but sometimes, silence is golden.”
- Capture: Take a few photos and videos (when permitted) to help preserve memories. But respect your partner’s wishes if she would prefer to not be photographed.
- Cut the cord: Cutting the cord is usually the job of the birth partner, though you don’t have to do it if you don’t feel comfortable. If it is very important to you, you may want to remind the doctor or nurses that you want to cut the cord as the moment approaches.
- Look alive: Be present and attentive during delivery and continue to do so once the new baby arrives. There may still be tasks that you can help your partner with post-delivery, such as helping her and new baby rest.
Most of all remember that this is a joyous time, so surround yourself with loved ones.