Dads: 50 ways to be the best birth partner, number 49 will shock you!
You need to help your partner prepare for labour and birth long before she has contractions and is rushed to the hospital. As a first time dad I was petrified because let’s be honest, labour is a lot to take in. I tried to remain calm and thankfully learning about labour and birth definitely helped me feel more confident. My new knowledge shifted my mindset from fear to understanding. It taught me that labour meant that we were one step closer to bringing our baby into the world. Wouldn’t you love to support your partner through labour and birth? I know that you want to help but you may feel unsure of where to start and how to guide your partner…so here are 50 ways that you can use to be the best birth partner:
1. Talk about birth preferences months before the labour.
Your partner may opt for a vaginal birth or for a Caesarean section (C-section). You will need to educate yourself about the procedures.
A C-section is an operation used to deliver a baby by making a cut in a women’s abdomen and womb. It may take your partner at least 6 weeks to recover.
You should also learn about emergency C-sections. My wife’s labour was difficult and our daughter’s heartbeat was dropping.
We were advised that if my wife didn’t push out our baby in 20 minutes she would need to have an emergency C-section.
To be honest, I was unprepared for that as I didn’t know much about C-sections.
This is not meant to scare you but this scenario had never crossed our minds. In the end, my wife delivered our baby just in time via a vaginal birth.
2. Learn about water births.
An increasing number of women are choosing the birth pool for their labour and delivery. They opt for this setting as the water makes them feel relaxed and calm.
3. Learn about induced labour.
My wife was overdue and she was advised to have an induced labour. With induced labour, medication is used to start labour.
My wife didn’t want an induced labour and I supported her decision.
She knew that firstborn babies do not always arrive on their due dates and she wanted to wait a few days past her due date.
In some circumstances it is advisable that your partner is induced especially if she is well past her due date or if there’s a risk to her or your baby’s health.
4. Buy a birthing ball.
I bought my wife a birthing ball and this helped her exercise and prepare for labour.
She also used her birthing ball at the start of her labour pains and I stood behind her and massaged her to ease some of her pain.
5. Buy a Comfortable Upright Birth Support (CUB).
Whilst researching birthing balls for my blog post, I came across the CUB which has great reviews. My wife did not use them because I did not know that they existed. A CUB is an inflatable birthing support that helps mums during labour and birth.
6. Take a childbirth education class together.
We did this and we learnt about the different positions for labour and how to cope with labour.
7. Learn about the different positions for labour.
Your partner can sit and rock from side to side on a birthing ball and you can sit behind her so that she can lean on you between contractions.
There are many other positions which include your partner lying on her side which is helpful for her to rest.
8. Know what to ask when choosing a hospital
When choosing a hospital, do ask them if you would be able to .stay over with your partner.
My wife gave birth in a public hospital and she wished that the hospital would have allowed me to stay over as she needed help in the night.
She was dizzy and tired and almost fainted. In addition, our baby was crying so much and my wife was struggling to breastfeed.
9. Do the hospital tour before labour.
We did a tour of the hospital before the labour and it helped us know exactly where to go to when my wife was in labour.
It’s also good to know where you need to park. Be sure to bring change to pay for parking.
10. Support her decision to have a doula to guide her.
I had no idea what a doula was until I met a doula during our hospital tour, we did not hire her but she did sound very knowledgeable about labour and delivery.
A doula is a person who helps women have a safe, memorable and empowering birthing experience. There are birth doulas, antepartum (before birth) doulas and postpartum (after birth) doulas.
Doulas help reduce a mum’s anxiety, lower the rate of C-sections, reduce time spent in labour and improve mother-baby bonding post-birth.
11. Help compile the birth plan.
Like many people, the birth plan was a foreign concept to me. I soon learnt that the birth plan delves into what the mum and dad would like.
You can write down key information in the birth plan such as if the dad wishes to cut the umbilical cord and if the mum wants an epidural or gas and air etc.
Be sure to print a few copies of the birth plan. The birth plan is given to the OB-GYN and to the nurses that will be attending to your partner.
12. Hospital bag essentials.
You should be very involved and proactive so surprise her with your knowledge of what’s needed in the hospital bags.
You need to have the hospital bags for your partner, for baby and for you fully packed at 30 weeks. Early labours do happen so you need to be prepared.
For your partner:
- Hospital file
- Birth plan
- Comfortable underwear
- Heavy duty sanitary pads
- A dressing gown
- A pair of warm socks
- Birthing ball (if not provided)
- 2 buttoned nightdresses for breastfeeding (if she has opted to breastfeed)
- Breast pads, lanolin cream (for tender nipples) and nursing bras
- A breastfeeding cover (if your partner wants her privacy)
- Her phone and charger
- Lip balm (as a woman gets very dehydrated during labour)
- Comfortable outfit to wear home
- Massage oil
- Her toiletry bag with a hairbrush, toothbrush, toothpaste, mirror, shampoo, conditioner, face cream and a few makeup essentials if desired (I know that my wife always carries lipstick)
- A good magazine/book to read
- Soothing music on her iPod
- Food and drinks
- Breastfeeding pillow Boppy Feeding Pillow on Amazon
- Her glasses if she wears contact lenses
- Hot water bottle for her back pain
- Her own warm blanket (for after the birth), hospital items don’t feel as personal
For your baby:
We made the mistake of taking clothes which were too big for our daughter. In hindsight, we should have packed more newborn sizes.
On the flip side, some newborns are quite big and won’t fit into newborn sizes. You should pack:
- 3 full-body onesies
- Socks and hat
- Going-home outfit, including a hat
- About 20-30 diapers
- 2 light blankets or muslin wraps
- 3 baby face cloths
- 3 pairs of socks
- Formula, bottles, teats and sterilising equipment if you plan to bottle-feed
- Wet wipes
- Baby blanket
- Bum cream like sudocream
- Infant car seat. It’s so important to place your baby in a car seat when you are driving home.
- Pack a push present for mum- It’s a gift that you give your partner after labour and birth. It’s a cute way of saying well done for bringing a new life into the world. Push presents have become popular and some celebrities have lavishly given their partners cars as gifts. To be honest, I did not give my wife a push present, she did ask me to get her favourite meal but in the rush of things I didn’t have the chance to.
- Your phone and charger
- A change of clothing
- Camera and charger
- Laptop to watch movies together (if it’s a long labour)
13. Pack a focal point object to help decrease her pain.
Your partner can focus on a favourite photo or baby book during contractions to help take her mind off the pain.
14. Carry food to the hospital.
We rushed to the hospital, so we tragically forget my wife’s food in our kitchen.
Major tip, taking food is so important because labour will make your partner very hungry. We went to the hospital late at night and all the restaurants and shops were closed.
My wife was not impressed that she was starving and going through a very long labour.
Be sure to also pack your partner’s favourite snacks.
Nuts help as they release energy and chocolate is a great snack as it releases oxytocin (feel good hormones).
15. Do a final checklist before heading to the hospital.
As I mentioned, I forgot my wife’s food and had I done a checklist before going to the hospital, she wouldn’t have been hungry in labour.
16. Listen to her talk about her anxiety about labour and delivery.
Be sure to chat to your partner about her anxieties. Like many first time mums, my wife was terrified of labour and delivery.
She voiced her concerns even months before her due date. We spoke about her fears and tried to find ways to minimise her anxiety.
She would take long outbreaths and sigh out slowly to relax.
17. Understand Birthing Hypnotherapy.
My wife has a low threshold for pain so practising birthing hypnotherapy was a godsend for both of us. We were fortunate to learn about birthing hypnotherapy as London offers free classes. Help your partner learn more about birthing hypnotherapy because it really isn’t pseudoscience.
Hypnotherapy really helped my wife as she was able to differentiate between natural pain (labour) versus pain caused in an injury.
She quickly learnt that her body was more than able to drive the process of labour. It helped my wife relax and she stopped viewing labour as a painful experience.
Oxytocin is a natural pain reliever and when fear takes over, it blocks oxytocin and your body is pumped with adrenaline instead. Being as calm as possible makes labour far easier.
My wife’s daily mantras calmed her and made her understand the mind-body connection. Some of the mantras that she recited were:
- I am a strong woman
- Giving birth is natural
- I am powerful
Visualisation also helped her. Your partner should imagine your baby’s birth as a very happy moment in time.
As an expectant dad, you should do the same.
18. Learn about labour coaching.
Remind your partner how to use relaxation and breathing techniques. When my wife was pushing, I stood next to her and encouraged her with her breathing. I was breathing with her and that helped her.
It doesn’t always work for every partner as some women want you to keep quiet, but I told her to breathe and push and it felt like we were there as a team (as mushy as that sounds).
Every person seeks out support in different ways; ask your partner what works best for her.
19. Be prepared, watch labour videos so that you can be the best advocate for your partner.
I only watched a few labour videos and in hindsight I should have watched more. It was a shock to know that our daughter’s heartbeat was dropping during labour; I always thought that we would have a drama-free labour.
It’s very common for many men to have never seen a delivery before the birth of their own baby. Watching many videos will help you understand the unpredictable nature of birth.
20. Create a labour playlist.
I created a labour playlist on my iPod which included my wife’s favourite songs and upbeat music. The music really helped her and lifted her spirits.
The nurses enjoyed the music too; I remember playing This girl is on fire by Alicia Keys. My wife fondly remembers the music from her labour playlist. Her other favourite song was Here comes the sun by Nina Simone. I also took a Bluetooth speaker so that we could clearly hear the music.
21. Recognise the signs of labour.
A bloody show (blood-stained mucus from the vagina) is a sign that labour may have started.
22. Time the contractions.
I did this for my wife and knew that we should be going to the hospital. Time your partner’s contractions in seconds from the beginning of one contraction to the beginning of the next.
Count the frequency of contractions in minutes. If she’s having regular painful contractions lasting 30 seconds or more, she’s probably in early labour.
Your doctor or midwife can help you make the decision over the phone about when to come in.
If the contractions are five minutes apart or less, last more than 30 seconds, and continue in that pattern for an hour, it’s time to go to the hospital.
23. Know that the hospital may send your partner home if she’s dilated to only 1cm.
If she’s dilated to only 1cm, chances are they’ll send you home or tell her to go for a walk until it’s clear she’s in labour.
24. Know that your partner may really be in labour and it’s not a false alarm.
We heard so many stories from families and friends that they had gone to hospital only to be sent away because their contractions were too far apart or they weren’t dilating.
When we went to the hospital, we expected to be told to go home and come back. My wife didn’t think that she was 4cm dilated and neither did the nurses as they said that she would be in more pain.
We asked them to check and she was in fact 4cm dilated and in active labour.
25. Know the different stages of labour.
Contractions occur when the uterus becomes tight then relaxed again. Her contractions will start to happen closer together.
The first stage of labour is often the longest stage.
This stage begins once she is 10cm dilated and ends with the birth of your baby.
You should look forward to Birth crowning; this is when your baby’s head becomes more and more visible after each contraction.
This stage begins immediately after the birth of your baby and ends with the delivery of the placenta five to 10 minutes later.
Your partner may get a case of the chills during this phase. Be sure to offer her a warm blanket and hold your newborn while your partner’s regaining her strength.
26. Learn about water breaking.
The movies often depict a pregnant lady’s water breaking and you see her in a pool of water but the reality of a women’s water breaking differs from that image.
With my wife, her water did not break naturally. Nurses had to break her water to speed up labour.
27. Learn about epidurals.
The epidural was to be administered and they first conduct blood tests before injecting the person. A thin, long needle goes into the back of the spine and she should not move when the needle goes in.
I held her hands and she looked at me and focused on me as the needle went in. It was very difficult for her because she was having contractions but couldn’t move because it was too dangerous to do so.
28. Understand the effects of gas and air.
My wife was shocked that gas and air made her feel so strange. It eased her pain but it made her feel very disorientated.
29. Massage her.
Massage your partner often, especially during the first stages of labour.
Massage will ease her pain, relax her and enable her body to release endorphins, which are feel-good hormones and natural pain killers.
30. Understand that labour takes time.
In movies, labour and delivery progress so fast but in reality labour and delivery can take ages. In fact, first time births can take 16 hours and more.
My wife’s labour took a very long time (it started on Thursday evening and she gave birth on Saturday afternoon). We were in the hospital from Friday evening.
31. Walk with her when she is in early labour.
Moving around in labour is vital. Walking in labour will help speed labour and make her feel more comfortable. Movement lessens discomfort.
32. Keep her hydrated and give her water and snacks when she is having contractions.
Ketosis is common for women who experience a prolonged labour.
With Ketosis, women become dehydrated and their contractions weaken, slow or stop. This can start to happen if glycogen (or glucose) is not being replenished through eating and drinking during labour.
Your partner should eat in the early stages of labour. So ensure that your partner stores up her energy reserve by eating a good meal full of carbs before you both go to the hospital.
Eating small snacks or sipping liquids may help you to feel more comfortable and to cope better with your labour, particularly in the early stages when you’re most likely to feel hungry.
Help her take regular food breaks which will help keep her energy up. It is recommended that only women deemed low-risk be allowed to eat and/or drink during labour.
The diet includes tea, fruit juice, lightly cooked eggs, crisp toast and butter, plain biscuits, clear broth and cooked fruits.
Ask your doctor and hospital about their policies about food and drink during labour.
My wife was not allowed to eat after her epidural. Doctors don’t allow women to eat or drink at this point because if their labour progresses to a general anaesthetic they have a greater risk of aspiration.
Aspiration is when food or liquid is inhaled into the lungs. In some cases it can cause death.
33. She may change her mind about pain relief or she may stick to the birth plan.
If she initially did not want an epidural and is insisting on it, support her decision, even if they’re different from what’s in your birth plan.
If on the other hand she asked that you help her manage labour without drugs, remind her about that.
34. She might have labour shakes.
Some women experience shaking, before pushing begins or immediately after birth. My wife started shaking after she has given birth.
Advise your partner to focus on her breathing and take deep breaths.
35. Let her squeeze your hand even if it gets painful.
Squeezing your hand will give your partner a bit of instant relief.
36. Use your voice.
Communicate with the doctors and nurses.
My wife managed her initial pain so well she thought that she could have a natural birth and use the birthing pool.
She had always planned to have an epidural but at the last minute the thought of giving birth in the birthing pool appealed to her and the birth plan went out the window.
However, 6 hours later the pain was too intense and she told me that she couldn’t manage the pain. I had to tell the nurse that the birthing pool was no longer an option and that she wanted go with our initial birth plan.
Speak up for your partner because she may feel nervous, scared or tired to speak up for herself.
37. Understand that epidurals take time to administer.
We thought that once we asked for the epidural, it would be administered immediately. That was wishful thinking; my wife had to wait for over an hour as blood tests have to be done.
For reference, an epidural is placed when you are considered to be in active labour.
38. Don’t be surprised when she vomits.
Hand her a bucket and give her water to rehydrate. My wife vomited after she gave birth.
39. Update your partner about her progress.
You should tell your partner what’s happening as your baby is being born especially if she can’t see what’s going on.
I remember telling my wife that I could see our daughter’s head as she was coming out; this encouraged her to push more.
40. You can follow the nurse when she does the checks on baby.
I followed the nurse when she weighed our daughter and did her checks. This reassured my wife that our baby was fine.
41. Wipe your partner’s face when she needs it.
She will be getting sweaty so wipe her with a cool facecloth.
42. Be present and not distracted by your phone.
Yes, labour can be long and you maybe tempted to reply to texts and surf the net for a few minutes but she needs your full attention so be there for her.
43. Take photos and videos of the labour and birth.
Initially, we did not want our baby’s birth to be recorded but we are now glad that we have photos and videos of the labour and birth.
Our daughter loves to see how she came into the world and how she looked when she was a newborn. It’s special to capture your baby’s grand entrance into the world because with time memories fade.
As a family, we get to watch her first cry and first feed.
We did not use a GoPro but in hindsight we wish we had. The GoPro can be setup quickly.
Find out if your hospital allows you to video as some don’t allow video footage.
44. Cut the umbilical cord.
I know that it is a special moment but at first I wasn’t keen to cut the umbilical cord. I thankfully changed my mind and did cut the umbilical cord.
With a vaginal birth, after the cord has been clamped with two clamps, you will be told to use scissors to cut the cord.
Cutting the umbilical cord at scheduled C-sections needs to be discussed beforehand as the instruments and operating area are sterile.
45. You should both do skin to skin with baby.
When mums do skin to skin, it aids bonding, helps with breastfeeding and boosts the baby’s immunity.
Remember that she just went through labour and delivery so she will be able to do skin to skin with baby however it may be limited as she will be sore.
Step in and do skin to skin with baby.
I did skin to skin, my shirt was open and I held our baby girl for a solid hour. You should wear a shirt with buttons as I feel that it’s easier than lifting a t-shirt up to do skin to skin.
46. Know that breastfeeding can be tough for your partner.
It was beautiful watching my wife breastfeed our daughter for the first time and give her colostrum (‘liquid gold’ filled with antibodies) but even breastfeeding was long, tough and a process. See my article on how dads can help breastfeeding mums.
It never crossed our minds that my wife would find breastfeeding difficult; we didn’t even buy formula milk as an alternate option.
Our baby was so hungry that the nurse who visited us said that we should give her some formula milk, so I went searching for formula milk.
After a week my wife could breastfeed easily. The support from nurses was phenomenal; they patiently guided my wife with breastfeeding and were incredibly encouraging.
47. Take care of yourself and make sure that you eat and drink.
You need to have high levels of energy to be a great birth partner.
48. Be sure to rest or have a quick nap in the hospital.
I napped for a short time and it helped me feel more energised, alert and focused.
49. Do not bathe your newborn.
Many people and hospitals bathe newborns. My advice to you is that your baby needs to stay warm, so he/she should not have a bath straight after being born.
You will notice that your baby has creamy, white vernix on their skin, be sure to leave it on. Vernix is a natural moisturiser that protects your baby from infection.
The nurses weighed her and checked that she was ok and that she had all her fingers and toes. They did not bathe her but they did clean her.
50. Visitors at the hospital.
Your partner may not want visitors at the hospital after the birth. Respect her choice and politely tell family and friends that you will let them know when to visit.
Conclusion: It’s normal to feel intimidated by your partner’s labour and delivery. You need to relinquish your preconceived notions of labour and delivery. Once you understand what pregnancy and labour entail; you’ll feel more confident. Knowledge is power and using that knowledge will help you be an amazing birth partner. There will be some happy surprises; seeing my baby’s head crowning was a moment that I will never forget. I was ecstatic and emotional. It felt as if I had already known my daughter. Be sure to use these tips to support your partner during labour and delivery. Finally, I hope that you have a great experience when you first meet your son or daughter.
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Which of these tips are you going to use? Comment below: