Most dads have no idea what giving birth is like, except for what they have seen on the internet, movies, or television shows. In some cases, labour happens quickly, however, in most instances it does not, particularly if your partner is having her first baby. So, what are the things dad can do to help during labour? Dads often feel clueless and overwhelmed about what they can do to support and help their partner when she is giving birth.
7 Things Dad Can Do To Help During Labour
Be knowledgeable about what to expect during labour
Once you have an idea of what to expect, it can help both of you to feel more relaxed. Therefore, it is highly recommended for you to attend childbirth classes beforehand with your partner. All birth centres and hospitals offer birth classes to prepare new parents for welcoming the new addition to their family.
Consider all your choices and consult with your partner about which class you should attend that fits your requirements best. Different classes emphasize several different comfort techniques and topics. Birth classes can help you understand what is normal and what is not. These professionals will guide you every step of the way.
Help with timing your partner’s contractions
It is not necessary to time the contractions the moment your partner starts experiencing them. Once they become closer to each other and are consistent, and they feel stronger, it is time to begin timing them. This will assist you with checking how far apart and how long they are.
Contraction timer apps for cell phones are useful tools to keep track of contractions. There are numerous free ones that are downloadable. You must time the contractions from the start of each contraction until the start of the next one and count the incidence of each contraction in minutes.
Keep in mind, if your partners have regular and intense contractions which last thirty seconds or longer, she is most probably in early labour.
Ensure that she is getting plenty of rest during early labour to build up sufficient energy for active labour, transition, and pushing.
Avoid going to the hospital too early
If you go to the hospital too soon, it is likely that her contractions are not happening frequent enough, intense enough, and the cervix has not dilated enough for admission into labour and delivery. The hospital will turn you away to return when it is necessary. It can make a difference if you distract her and try and keep her mind off the contractions. You can do some activities like watching a movie or baking some cookies.
You can go to the hospital once the contractions:
- Are five minutes apart or less
- They last a minute or longer
- The sequence is repeated for at least an hour
If contractions begin at night, try to help her to go back to sleep. You can rub her back and place a heating pad or warm compress on her lower back to ease some of the pain.
Soon after your partner’s water break, you can ask her the following questions:
- Was it a trickle of water (high tear) or a gush of water (low tear)? Water will keep coming out until the baby is born, so do not be alarmed.
- Does the fluid have a colour or is it clear? Signs of brown, yellow or green in the water is an indication of meconium (baby is first poop). T his could be an indication that the baby is in distress
- Do you notice a foul smell? Amniotic fluid/water is usually odourless. A distinct foul odour could be a sign of infection.
- Can she still feel the baby move? This question is the most essential one. If her water broke with a big gush, it means the umbilical cord might have slipped through her cervix (cord prolapse) and is cutting off circulation and oxygen to the baby. If your partner is not feeling the baby move, let her drink some juice and help her to lay on her side. Wait for a couple of minutes and if still no movement is felt, help her to stand on her knees, with her head down and her buttocks raised. Call emergency services immediately.
If there is no foul smell, the colour is clear, and your partner can feel the baby move, you have about twelve hours to make it to hospital. If her water broke, but she has no contractions, let her walk, do nipple stimulation, sit on an exercise ball, press on acupressure points, and so forth, to help contractions along. If you go to the hospital after your partner’s water broke and she has no contractions, they will induce her.
Be a lively participant
During early labour, make sure your partner drinks enough fluids. Pour her some Gatorade, herbal tea, water, Pedialyte, etc. to make sure she stays hydrated. Ensure that she does not eat anything acidic or too heavy that can result in vomiting during labour.
Offer snacks like crackers, yogurt, fruit, trail mix, protein shake, broth, or anything bland. No food will be offered to her once she arrives at the hospital and she needs to build up her energy. Remember, there will be plenty of experienced people at the birth centre or hospital, but you are her closest support, so make sure you are available to support her. Here is a checklist of things that you can do to assist her:
- Holding her hand.
- Gently massaging her.
- Assist her with focusing on decelerating her breathing.
- Doing counter pressure on her sacrum and hips.
- Ensuring the room is at the right temperature.
- Assisting her with changing her positions every hour.
- Dimming the lights and creating a calm atmosphere.
- Reminding her to take a bathroom break each hour to avoid her bladder holding up the baby’s head.
- Fetching her ice chips.
- Walking with her through the hospital halls.
- Wiping her brow and forehead with a cool, wet facecloth to cool her down.
- Guiding her through every contraction and helping her relaxing her muscles.
- Taking pictures or video to capture the special moment.
- Reassuring her along the way that she is doing brilliantly and how proud you are of her.
- Fetching a cold or hop pack for relieving lower back or lower abdomen pain.
- If she is opted for an epidural, assist her with rotating from her left side to the right and helping her to sit up after every thirty minutes to the hour and keeping her pelvis open.
- Doing whatever she asks of you.
Knowing what she requires and being her supporter
After both of you attended a childbirth class, speak to your partner about what she prefers and what not during labour and birth of the baby. This is referred to as a birth plan. If she is not using a doula, you will have to be her go-to person and ensure she has everything she needs during labour and birth. Communication is key.
The midwife or doctor and nurses are primarily there to ensure your partner and the baby are doing well and are healthy during labour and birth. Your job is to make her as comfortable as possible and communicate her requests.
The birth plan
If you have a written birth plan, make sure you take it with you to the hospital to share it with the hospital personnel on-call. This way you will not have to remember every detail. Take a second copy, just in case.
Be prepared and flexible
You and your partner might have a specific idea of how you want the baby to be born but essentially it is up to the baby. As long as your baby is healthy and doing fine, you can try alternative options before immediately deciding on a c-section once things are not going according to plan.
You must be prepared for the unexpected and include flexibility in your plan if any changes happen. Watch videos and read books about c-sections and vaginal births prior to the big day, so that you know exactly what to expect. This way you will not be caught off guard.
Hiring a doula
If the responsibility of being your partner’s support during labour and birth sounds like it is a tad too much to handle on your own, it is perfectly ok. In the past Men never permitted in the delivery room, but now they are expected to be proficient in supporting their labouring partners. It can be a bit much to carry on their shoulders.
Doulas honour everything that goes along with labour, keeping her comfortable, giving her ice chips, cooling her down, and guiding her through every contraction. Hiring a doula can be incredibly helpful and take some of the burden off your plate. She can assist your partner by making her comfortable, doing counter-pressure, massaging, hydrotherapy, and being her support.
This way you can focus more on becoming a new Dad and offer your partner emotional support.
8 Bonus tips: what dads should and should not do in the delivery room
Avoid falling asleep
Labour can be a highly tense and draining experience for both parents, however, try your best not to fall asleep. Your partner is pushing through and cannot sleep, neither should you. This is the time to be there in the moment.
Hold all phone calls
Remember to turn your cell phone’s ringer off. You friends, family, and boss will understand. You can send out a general update or Facebook notification out afterwards but keep it short.
Do not whine
During this time, the only person that should be claiming pity is your partner who is busy giving birth. It is no fun dealing with painful contractions and having to push for hours. Be there for her and make sure she is as comfortable as possible.
Avoid screen time like the plague
Unless you are both watching a movie or series to pass the time and keep your partner relaxed, screen time is off limits. Instead, focus on how she is doing and what she needs. Childbirth professionals emphasize on the importance of touch and support during labour since it can help thing along more swiftly and smoothly. Hold her hand and be supportive.
Leave the bad jokes at home
This is not the appropriate time for bad jokes. The hospital personnel might not share your unique sense of humour and you might land yourself in hot water. Even if your partner generally enjoys your cracks, it may not be the case when she is going through excruciating pain.
Do not be in the way – watch what you are doing and where you are going
Avoid being that guy that trips or get in the way. If you are feeling anticipation and anxiety, instead, take deep breaths and try to control your nerves. You will be doing everyone a favour. Try to limit unnecessary movements in the birthing room.
Keep your composure
It often happens that the dad faints and the nurse or doctor must fetch him a chair. The birthing experience can be emotional, so try to keep your composure. Bear in mind, your partner is in labour, not you. The attention should always be on her.
Eradicate unpleasant surprises by attending birthing classes with your partner beforehand and pay attention in class. Read about the different phases of labour and what happens during a c-section. Be informed about the various types of medical equipment that might be used.
Keep your emotions in control during the birth of your baby and try to hold your comments once the baby comes out. Be prepared for the baby to be covered in fluids once he arrives. The no jokes rule applies in this situation too.
Use your camera discreetly
Discuss photos and videos with your partner beforehand. Some women loves being filmed during labour while others not so much and prefer after pictures. Either way, try to capture at least one great first family photo and a few shots shortly after birth.
We hope this article has been helpful to all the soon to be Dads out there. Just because you are not the one giving birth, does not mean that you are not playing an essential role in the labour and birth experience. Your support to you partner will prove to be invaluable to her.