When a woman is in labour, all the attention is on her and the little baby about to be born.
And rightly so.
After all, she is the one whose body is about to go through the incredible intense act of birthing a baby!
And well, the baby is the one the parents have spent months preparing for!
However, in the past few decades, it’s become apparent how important the role of the dad or birth partner is during labour.
A birth partner’s role is so important, it has an enormous effect on how a mother feels about the outcome of her birth. Whether she considers her birth story positive or not.
This Cochrane research on the important role of birth partners to a labouring woman is a good read.
Yet, many men are clueless about how to help their wives during labour.
Can we fault them for that? For being clueless, certainly not!
Although this is the common thread, it is unfair to expect dads to be perfect birth partners.
Especially when they have little to no prior knowledge of what to expect in the labour ward.
So, what’s a husband to do, right?
If you are reading this, then you want your wife (and ultimately family) to have a positive birth experience. That alone is commendable!
This is why I’ve written this post. To teach dads how to support their partners in labour.
It’s so key to know how to support your wife during labour especially during this pandemic.
This is a time when many labouring women have restrictions on the length of time their birth partners can stay with them while in the hospital.
As a result, it’s vital that once you get in, you get to work immediately knowing what to do and how to help your partner.
PERSONAL STORY: My husband was uncertain how to support me during the birth of our first son. Somehow, I expected him to know what to do.
Beyond holding my hands and telling me I was doing great, he didn’t do much more. Despite us attending antenatal classes together.
For our second son, he did a far better job! Would you like to know what he did differently and how? Stick around and I’ll tell you.
Who is a Birth Partner?
A birth partner is someone who provides physical, emotional, and mental support to a woman who is in labour. This is more traditionally, the woman’s husband but can be anyone. Family, a friend, or a doula.
What if I don’t have a Birth partner?
If for some reasons you do not have a birth partner but desire the support of having one, you can hire a doula.
She will act as a birth support partner for you during your baby’s birth.
Doulas are specially-trained to help a woman before, during and after childbirth. They provide physical and emotional support to pregnant women through childbirth to postpartum.
You can get a professional doula here.
Wondering how best to help your wife in labour? Read on…
25 THINGS DADS SHOULD DO FOR THEIR WIFE DURING LABOUR
#1. Be Prepared
As a husband, it’s important you have all the important numbers to hand.
Even if your wife has them on her phone, make sure you have them on yours as well or anywhere handy.
You don’t want to be that husband asking your wife for the triage’s number when she’s having a contraction.
Also, it’s good to know the shortest route to the hospital.
Weeks before her due date, learn the different routes you can take to the hospital/birthing centre. Know the traffic congestion rate at different hours too.
There’s nothing calmer than getting to hospital in good time when a woman is having contractions.
#2. Pack a bag for yourself
Your wife has a lot to do already with packing her bag and the baby’s.
It will be so thoughtful if you could pack a bag of a few essentials that you would need during the hospital stay.
Some essentials to pack in your dad’s hospital bag are a phone charger, a shirt or two, snacks, and toiletries.
With everything going on now, it will be a good idea to pack a few face masks and hand sanitizers as well.
#3. Know where things are packed
Kindly note that I’m not recommending that you dishevel your partner’s hospital bag that she has so carefully arranged.
What I am suggesting is that you have an idea of the general content of her hospital bags and where some things are.
For instance, a lot of women get dry lips during labour and so pack a chapstick. It’s helpful if you know where that is so you can easily help her get it out when she needs it.
#4. Have change for car packing
If you are mobile, it’s definitely worth bringing in some change so you can easily pay for car packing.
While a lot of the ticket machines do accept cards, sometimes technology can fail.
Having change is a good back-up plan.
You could also consider having a “wife-in-labour” sign on your car to get reduced parking fees. Or ask the receptionist for waived fees.
#5. Educate yourself on the basics of labour
I feel like this is one of the most IMPORTANT points.
Every husband needs to learn about what happens during labour, the stages of labour, and delivery.
A good way to do this is to take good antenatal classes together.
No one might have the time to explain things to you especially if things progress quickly. The midwives will be busy focusing on your wife and unborn baby.
So knowing what to expect, understanding terminologies like 4cm dilated, full dilated, water breaking, etc will be very beneficial to you.
And you will feel like a part of the process of the birth of your baby.
#6. Know your partner’s birth preferneces
Most women have certain preferences when it comes to the birth of their baby.
Your wife will be no exception!
Some want a particular birth position, others want the umbilical cord cut after a while not immediately (delayed cord clamping).
Whatever your spouse’s preferences, KNOW THEM.
Ask her about it and write it down if necessary.
Also, importantly, advocate for her to get her preferences as much as possible.
Some health officials might want to do things their own way but insist quite firmly on what your wife prefers ( as long as it’s safe both for her and the baby).
This will have a great impact on how positive she’ll view her birth story.
#7. Ask her how she would like to be comforted during labour
It’s easy to assume your partner will like to have her hands held or back rubbed during labour because that’s what we see in movies.
The reality however is that women are different.
While one woman will appreciate that, another might not want to be touched at all.
So, in order not to commit a faux pas, ask your spouse in advance to tell you specific ways she would like to be comforted.
You can use the worksheet at the end of this FREE Birth Partner Support Cheat Sheet for writing the points she mentions.
Find out what “support” means to her.
#8. Be present
In the labour room, BE PRESENT.
Be there with her. No distractions. No quick surfing the internet. No social media!
Just you being fully engaged and in the moment.
#9. Have a to-do list
Things like call family, fill the birth pool, get snacks, call triage, cut the cord, give thank you cards can be on your checklist.
#10. Pay attention to her needs/wants
If she is thirsty, offer her ice chips/ water if allowed. If she is hot, soothe her forehead. Rub her back.
You get the drift?
#11. Set the mood
A calm, peaceful and serene mood can help your wife progress faster.
You can help her achieve that by setting the mood.
Dim the lights. Light candles. Play music from her labour playlist or play her birth affirmations.
#12. Repeat what she does
Instinctively, women in labour do things to ease the discomfort and pain.
Repeating what your wife does can provide some measure of comfort and relief for her.
For instance, if she is swaying, hold her and sway with her. Rub her back if you find that she is rubbing her back.
#13. Stay calm and remind her to breathe
No matter what happens, it’s so important that you remain calm and are a pillar of support when she needs you most.
Beforehand, practice breathing relaxation techniques for pain management in labour.
Listen to her breathing especially during a contraction and remind her to breathe properly through it.
#14. Tell her motivational, supportive and encouraging words
A lot of husbands are not quite sure what to say to their wives during labour.
You should tell her words that will motivate her and make her feel confident. Words of encouragement and loving words help her to relax which is good for baby.
Some examples of appreciative and encouraging words to say to your labouring partners are:
- I love you!
- You are doing great!
- I’m proud of you!
- You are beautiful!
- You can do this!
- You are awesome!
- You will be the best mummy ever!
- Our baby is so lucky to have you as a mother!
#15. Watch what you say and your body language
No matter what happens, what you hear or see, DO NOT FREAK OUT!
Do not scare her either. What she’s going through already is scary enough! Refer back to point #13.
Be careful with your use of words and watch your body language so you don’t communicate fear even if you are feeling it.
Make a deliberate effort to remain calm. Be her protector. Be strong!
#16. Don’t ask questions during a contraction
No matter how pressing, do not ask questions during a contraction.
#17. Don’t take things she does or says personal
Sadly, you may hear some hurtful things from your wife during labour. Try as much as possible not to take things personally.
Understand that she is in a lot of pain and doesn’t mean to hurt you.
#18. Drink water and eat
Labours can be long and lasts for hours.
It’s generally a good idea to stay hydrated and eat well so that you are wide awake when you need to be.
Especially when she needs comforting and there’s no one else in the labour room with her but you.
#19. Help her tell the midwives what she needs
At times during childbirth, your wife will be unable to speak aloud because of the pain she is in.
That is the perfect time for you to go near her, listen to her needs, wants and communicate that to the midwives. And vice versa.
#20. Make her laugh
Share her favourite joke or expression, anything to take her mind off what’s going on in her body. But don’t do this during a contraction.
#21. Keep unwanted visitors out
This one is a BIGGIE! ( Although you should not have much of a problem with it now).
As much as is within your power, guard her space.
If there are certain family members or friends she doesn’t want in the room, honor her wishes.
This can help her relax. Relaxing is good for her and will help her progress in labour quicker. Tensing up can halt the process completely. It’s that serious!
#22. Help her make medical decisions
Labour can be intense!
With your wife being in so much pain, she might not be in the best frame of mind to discuss medical decisions with the midwives or other health officials.
While you shouldn’t make decisions for her ( unless she is incapacitated in some way), you should go through the options with her. Till you both are satisfied with the decision made.
#23. Call or text the right people
There will be some specific people your wife (or you both) will want to keep updated as labour progresses. Call or text those people ONLY.
#24. Tell her what’s happening
As your baby is crowning and coming out, your wife might not be able to see it.
Telling her what’s going on is a good way to encourage her and let her know that she’s almost there and that your baby is almost here.
#25. Thank her for giving you a child
Once your baby is here no matter the conditions in which she came, THANK YOUR WIFE!
Appreciate her for going through all of that to bring your baby to the world.
Want to go a step further?
Buy her a push gift.
And just in case you were wondering, a push gift is a present you give your wife for birthing your baby.
And, yes, it’s a thing!
HOW MY HUSBAND SUPPORTED ME DURING LABOUR AND WHAT YOU CAN DO TOO…
Remember the story I started in the beginning?
About how my husband was a much better birth partner with our second baby?
Like I promised, here’s the concluding part.
Here’s what he did differently the second time around: Before my due date, he had a discussion with me about how I wanted to be supported during labour and he noted what I said (similar to the points above).
Even though I had an easier and quicker labour the second time around (it was so quick my husband missed it!), he was super prepared and did the right things at the right time.
Including reminding me to breathe and relax which was soooo helpful when my body would naturally tense in reaction to the contractions.
To help you dads, I’ve created this FREE Cheat Sheet for birth partners that you can download below.
It contains a summary of the 25 points above. It also includes a worksheet for your partner to write down her preferences for how she wants to be supported in labour.
It’s not as difficult as it seems.
You’ve got this!
Related labour and delivery posts:
- The Top 5 Antenatal Classes on YouTube right now!
- Preparing for motherhood: the best tips for the first time mum
- 13 Important Things Commonly Forgotten from your Hospital Bag
- Postpartum Care Kit: All you need to Recover Quick and Easy!
- Why I gave up breastfeeding at almost 2 weeks: Newborn tongue-tie experience
- Powerful Bible Verses for Your Unborn Baby