A woman’s labor and delivery will be one of the most challenging, rewarding, and vulnerable times of her life. She’s going to need all the support she can get. That’s why it’s great that you’re looking for advice for dads during labor! It might seem hard to imagine, but partners play a crucial role in this process. Read on for some amazing ways you can be the best support you can be.
Throughout most of my first pregnancy, my husband admitted that he felt pretty useless. Sure he could do his part around the house when I needed to rest or scale back, but it didn’t feel like much to him. He’s a bit of a control freak; he’s very hands-on, and his love language is acts of service. I’m lucky. But if it were up to him, pregnancy would have been a shared burden (I say burden because, let’s just say it wasn’t an easy one!).
With this in mind, I realized that one way to help make him feel involved and helpful would be to literally tell him how a husband can support their partner during labor. Afterall, it’s not necessarily instinctual. And I didn’t want him to feel in the way.
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Other helpful labor and delivery articles:
- When your birth plan is different from your birth story
- Curb Walking to Induce Labor: Does it Actually Work?
Following are some tips for new dads during labor that you can take with you to the hospital. And don’t forget, dads, supporting mama doesn’t stop with labor and delivery. She will need some TLC in postpartum too, particularly as she regains confidence in her body. Here are some tips for making her feel sexy again after the baby arrives.
1. Educate yourself before mom’s due date
Here’s the honest truth: moms-to-be don’t want to have to tell you to learn about pregnancy, the birthing process, the various stages of labor, or pain management techniques. We want you to want to learn these things on your own! We want you to want to be the best support you can be without feeling like we have to convince you.
No, we don’t mind pointing you in the right direction (check your IG DMs to see all of the borderline passive aggressive L&D tips we’ve forwarded to you); all it takes is a simple ask! Trust me, we are armed with a wealth of info, guides, and profiles we would happily point you toward.
But, the best case scenario is that you take the time to do this yourself. Whether you *willingly* attend prenatal classes with your partner, read helpful blogs, get advice from friends who have gone through it themselves, or get yourself some books… anything will be felt and appreciated. And it will ultimately make you and you partner feel more connected during this time.
After all, you are in this together.
This pregnancy book for first-time dads was an easy read for my husband. Bite-sized, consumable, easy-to-grasp chapters that are packed with info.
Pro tip for mamas: get a copy and leave it in the bathroom for those hour-long visits your man loves to make.
2. Pack your bag ahead of time (and don’t forget the snacks)
You may think your wife is a little neurotic for packing her hospital bag weeks and weeks before her due date, but… there is good reason! Even if you are experiencing a low risk, uneventful pregnancy, there is no predicting when your little one will decide to make an appearance.
Pack enough for a couple of nights at the hospital, including some snacks for you and mama! I’d also recommend a good pillow, as dad’s hospital bed isn’t often the most comfortable thing in the world.
3. Understand your partner’s birth plan or labor and delivery preferences
If your partner has a birth plan, it wouldn’t hurt to pack a copy in your hospital bag as a reminder for the big day. Take the time to go over it with her to make sure you know what is really important to her and what doesn’t matter as much. It’s very possible that during labor, your partner will be too preoccupied, distracted, exhausted, or dazed to really communicate her desires and needs. This is where you can step in and do it for her!
DURING LABOR (AT HOME & AT THE HOSPITAL):
4. Be the bad cop, if necessary
If your partner’s birth plan seems to be challenged by her labor and delivery team, be her voice so she doesn’t have to. It can be hard to stand up for yourself and your wishes when you are in such a vulnerable position as delivering a baby. And while birth plans don’t always come to fruition due to serious, justifiable medical reasons, there are many occasions when they don’t simply because a delivery doctor would rather do it their way. And this doesn’t always make for a safe L&D.
This is particularly so if you are a Black woman. In 2021, the maternal mortality rate for Black women was 69.9 deaths per 100,000 live births, which is 2.6 times the rate for White women. This may be due to the quality of their healthcare or underlying chronic conditions, but can also, unfortunately, result from structural racism and implicit bias.
If your partner’s wishes are challenged, if it seems like she is being pressured into unnecessary circumstances, or if she doesn’t feel comfortable enough to reinforce her plan, whether that be birthing positions, going drug-free, etc., don’t be afraid to be the bad cop and step in on her behalf.
5. Time her contractions
Of all tips for dad during labor, this one is one of the most helpful, especially if your mama-to-be plans to labor at home for any amount of time. While she may be ready and able to time her own contractions, it would be super helpful to time them for her so she can just focus on riding them out.
Timing your partner’s contractions will help you know when it is time to head to the hospital. OBGYNs generally wait for the 5-5-1 rule, which is when mama can feel the contractions at consistent 5-minute intervals, lasting for 1 minute, for at least 1 hour. There are many free apps that you can use to keep track of her progress. Be sure to check with your healthcare provider to find out when they would like you to head to the hospital.
6. Be present
It isn’t necessarily the wrong thing to try to entertain yourself with the TV, video games, naps, or social media during your wife’s labor… many dads do it. Labor can admittedly be long and boring for dad, and you may naturally find yourself looking for ways to pass the time. This is fine, however, be sure your wife’s needs are met first, and that she wouldn’t be bothered by you occupying yourself elsewhere.
Be there for your partner physically and emotionally. Hold her hand, offer encouragement and support, make sure she has everything she needs, distract her, and as mentioned, be her advocate.
7. Set the vibe
A relaxing, comfortable environment can make a world’s difference in allowing your wife to relax, and thus allow her cervix to dilate faster. Hospitals are not relaxing. Between nurses coming in and out of your room to check on mama and baby every ten minutes, uncomfortable beds, and, in some cases, tiny rooms… it’s no wonder we can’t relax (and it’s no wonder that more and more pregnant woman are opting for midwives and at-home births).
Here are some ways you can create a nice setting:
- Bring a portable speaker and play some music of mama’s favorite tunes. If you really want some brownie points, make a relaxing playlist ahead of time,
- If you’re having a summer baby, a portable fan can help keep mama cool while she’s working her way through contractions. My husband attached this stroller fan to my hospital bed during my L&D and it saved my life.
- If your hospital allows it, considering lighting mama’s favorite candle.
- Draw the shades and dim the lights.
- Bring a sound machine to drown out hospital sounds while mama is trying to get some sleep.
8. Keep her hydrated
Want to feel really helpful? Keep that hospital water bottle topped off, and make sure your partner drinks plenty of water or other fluids to stay hydrated and energized during labor. A good rule of thumb is a sip of water between each contraction. It might seem small, but this is a crucial part of L&D.
9. Give her chapstick
Because holy dry lips! I swear I reapplied my chapstick every 30 minutes during my L&D. Dads, come prepared with a stick or two and pass it over to your partner every once in a while. Her lips will thank you!
10. Help with relaxation techniques
After you’ve set the hospital room vibe, help your partner with other relaxation techniques, like breathing exercises and massages. This can help her stay calm, manage pain (see next tip), and facilitate quicker labor.
There is a very good chance that mama will tense up during labor, which is a common result of the stress and pain she is experiencing. Unfortunately, tense muscles can disrupt the progression of labor and make things more challenging. With her ok, gently massage areas of tension until she is able to relax.
Proper breathing is crucial, too. Your partner may be holding tension in her jaw, and/or taking short, unsatisfying breaths through her mouth. Encourage her to unclench her jaw and breathe deeply through her nose.
11. Help with pain management techniques
This is a BIG one, dads! If you really want to be a big support during your partner’s labor, learn pain management techniques before the big day. There are plenty of labor nurse and doula Instagram accounts with a wealth of information on how you can ease any pain mama may be experiencing.
One of the most useful ways to help get through painful contractions is for dad to apply firm pressure to mama’s lower back and pelvic area. This can be done with her sitting in a chair, bent over her bed, or on her hands and knees.
It is also recommended that mama sit on the toilet to help her progress through dilation, so if things seem to be slowing down rather than picking up, encourage her to migrate to the bathroom for a new position.
12. Don’t let her see your shock
There will be blood, there may be poop, there may be throw up, she will scream, groan, and make noises you may have never heard come out of her mouth. She will deliver a whole human, and THEN a placenta, which may not be something you’re prepared to see. You may even witness concern from the doctor or nurses.
No matter what you see, whether it freaks you out or scares you, keep your composure. What your partner needs is to stay calm, focused, and controlled, and she will lean on your strength.
13. Stay calm
There is no denying that labor can be intense and emotional, so it’s important to stay calm and focused. Your partner will need your stability and reassurance during this time.
14. Leave your pride to the side
Seriously, don’t get offended if your partner mouths off at you at any point during her labor. It’s not personal, trust me. Giving birth hurts, it’s scary, and it’s shocking. If she starts to scream, get an attitude with you, or question why she ever agreed to do this while you get to sit on the side, let it go, let it gooo…
Let’s just call it a coping mechanism.
15. Take care of yourself
It’s important to take care of yourself too, so that you can be there for your partner. Take breaks, eat and drink regularly to keep your energy up, and get some rest.
I might give my husband a (jokeful) hard time about it, but man… he got some serious naps in during my 27 hour labor! He swears that this helped him be more present, alert, and prepared for when our little girl finally decided to grace us with her presence. Again, just make sure mama is in a good place to rest herself before you take a break.
16. Offer words of encouragement
Whether she is riding out a tough contraction or pushing her way through delivery, words of encouragement are an absolute must.
Reiterating to mom that she is doing a good job, that she is safe, and that baby is almost there is an excellent way to motivate her to keep on keeping on. Birth affirmations can make a world of difference in mom’s mental strength and ability to fight through the pain.
Labor can be unpredictable, so be prepared to adapt to changes in the birth plan. Stay open-minded and be willing to go with the flow. Remember, your partner is going through a significant physical and emotional experience, and your support and presence can make a big difference.
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