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Labor is physically and emotionally demanding. On my first birth experience, I was frightened beyond belief because I was not sure I can handle the pain. I couldn’t imagine if my husband wasn’t there with me during the process. Having support from your partner during labor can help minimize the emotional distress and anxiety toward labor pain.
On the first time, my husband was feeling overwhelmed too and mainly just sitting there like a potato. Yes, he was holding my hand the entire time, but he was also uncharacteristically quiet and felt lost in his own thoughts. As thankful as I am to have him there, I wanted him to be more prepared next time.
I included him on my birth plan the second time around. That way, he knows what he should do (or don’t) to support me during labor. On the other hand, we also can figure out in what ways he wants to be involved too.
Why Having A Support During Labor and Delivery is Important
Having a companion during labor has been found to improve the whole birth experience. Research shows that women who receive good social support during labor and delivery tend to have shorter labor, able to control their pain better, and have less need for medical intervention.
Moreover, maternity nurses’ lack of awareness of the mother’s fears can create loneliness and helplessness in the mother. The presence of someone that has a close bond with the mother will help make labor easier to go through.
It should be noted that support can come from anyone that the mom’s deemed suitable to accompany her during delivery. Whether it’s a family (mother/sister), doula, best friend, or anybody that she can trust, having someone can be very beneficial during labor time.
For the dads, if you are the chosen one to help your partner in the delivery room, don’t be scared! It’s your time to really shine and show your love in the best moments of your life!
The involvement of the spouse during labor not only exerts some medical effects (like decreasing the mom’s need for analgesics), but also promotes responsible parenthood and father-child bonding.
I’ve come up with a list of advice for the dads (or dads-to-be!) to support your partner during labor and delivery.
Before Labor Time
1. Go to a childbirth class
There is a lot of great advice that you can get from a childbirth class. You will know how you can assist your partner during contraction and labor time with guided breathing, give a counter pressure on her hip, or simply just being there to give positive reassurances and wipe her forehead while she bounces on a birthing ball.
2. Read a book (or two) about childbirth
Especially if you are a first-time dad, word of advice, please don’t expect a birthing experience like what you’ve seen on tv. The baby will not just slide out clean and ready to smile, or the birth time might not happen in the span of 10 minutes.
There will be a lot of bodily fluids involved in birth. I mean, not to scare you, but it can be a messy business.
Reading a book will help you know what to expect and how to act during those moments. There are a lot of great books for the dads to be nowadays, and they are worth every penny to learn about what labor and delivery entail.
Here is a list of book recommendations for the dads to help support your partner during labor:
- The Birth Partner, by Penny Simkin
- The Expectant Father: The Ultimate Guide for Dads-to-Be, by Armin A. Brott
- The New Dad’s Playbook: Gearing Up for the Biggest Game of Your Life, by Benjamin Watson
The more you know, the less fearful you’ll be.
3. Read the Birth Plan and Be Her Advocate
Once both of you are inside the delivery room, you can assist your partner by being her advocate. To avoid any misunderstanding or problems that may arise, it is best to read and understand your partner’s wishes inside a birth plan beforehand.
Talk about what kind of birth experience you both want by creating a birth plan ahead of time. You can also point out in what ways you want to be involved.
Planning this before the delivery time will give a sense of control to a mom that she is prepared. So when the time comes, she can stay calm and focused on her contraction while you help making sure everyone on the birth team is on the same page to help support the mom on her labor experience.
4. Pack Your Own Bag
While your partner packs up her hospital bag, make sure you do, too. Bring spare clothes, toiletries, books, snacks, music, phone charger, and change for vending machines and hospital cafeterias.
I have a hospital bag checklist here, to get you some ideas on what to pack.
During Labor Time
5. Help Timing The Contractions
When a woman feels the first contraction, she may feel panicked for the impending birth situation and lose control of what to do. You may help her timing the contraction, how long they are, and how far apart to see if active labor is actually happening.
A contraction timer app might be handy to use during this time instead of a pen and paper. Your partner also can help to assess if it’s time to go to the hospital when you both recognize that you’re having regular intense contractions.
6. Taking Her Mind Off of The Contractions
Having a baby within an hour or two after the first contraction rarely happens. It can take a looooong time waiting for the cervix to be dilated enough. Most hospitals also won’t admit women in early labor, so the waiting game can be challenging at times.
You can support her by making you comfortable and relax during early labor. Either by taking a walk, watching a movie together, massaging you while you rest, anything to help her take her mind off the contractions.
Get her a hot or cold pack to relieve pain in her lower abdomen and lower back to ease the pain.
7. Be Present and Help Her Focus
During the active phase of labor, the contraction can become more intense and this is a crucial time for the moms to stay calm and endure the pain. You can hold her hand, keep doing counter pressure on her hips, and help her change positions every hour.
If she wants to walk down the hall, assist and walk with her. Yes, you can’t take away her pain, but you can encourage her to go through it.
When the active labor comes, help her focus on slowing down her breathing.
8. Understand Her Wishes
Most women don’t know how they will be during labor. Some need that constant talking and back rubs, some need silence, and to be left alone to focus.
You will find out which type she will be during the active labor time, it can be different from time to time. The best way to support your partner during labor is to learn to be really in tune with her and ready to give her what she needs during that time.
9. Give Positive Affirmations
At the final labor stages, or transition phase, she might say she can’t handle the pain anymore. This is the time when you are really needed to give positive affirmations
Also, there are times when inevitable complications may arise. For example when the mom failed to progress and a C section became necessary, a support from you will make a big difference in how she will handle the difficult situation. Tell her that it’s going to be okay.
Tell her that she is doing an amazing job and that you are so proud of her.
10. Record the Birth Moments
If you and your partner wanted to keep memories of the birth experience, get your recording devices ready and capture the moments. But it’s important to remain quiet to keep your partner stay focused and restrain yourself from moving too much that may disturb the midwives, doctor, or nurses.
11. Be An Active Participant
Hooray! Your little bundle of joy finally came. You can decide if you want to cut the cord or help to catch the baby. If she wishes to breastfeed and have a skin-to-skin time immediately, be sure to tell the nurses so they can help with that as soon as it’s safe to do so.
Your partner might also feel cold and get a case of the chills. If that’s the case, offer a warm blanket so she will be comfortable while she regaining her strength.
12. Help Her to Recover
One of the greatest thing that I remember of having a helpful partner to support me during labor is when he was there to help me shower afterward because I could barely move. It’s a simple gesture but has a big effect to help me recover.
13. Be the Gatekeeper
The mom will likely be tired and just want alone time with the new baby. But the visitors keep pouring in and wanted to congratulate you and your family.
If your partner requests a private time to rest, you need to be the gatekeeper and tell your family and close friends to respect her wishes. Or you can meet them in the waiting room and entertain them out there.
14. Take Care of The Older Sibling(s)
If you have other kids, it may be time to pick her up and get them ready to meet the new baby. Enjoy your happy moments with the new addition to the family!
The key role of you as a companion is to help support, encourage and reassure your partner during labor. Birth is a very emotional experience and having encouragement from the dad can make the whole process particularly special. Good luck dads!