13 ways first time dads can support their partner during birth

A woman in labour

Giving birth is a momentous and often daunting time, so having the support of your partner is essential for you to go into labour feeling strong, brave and ready.

But apart from holding your hand and feeding you ice chips, what else can your partner do to support you during the birth?

The truth is, if your partner is going to be your support figure in the birthing suite, there’s a lot more he can do to help you get through it. Being a support person for a woman during labour is long, intense work and requires someone to be seriously up to the task. A large part of this role is about being your advocate during labour and birth. Once your labour is in full swing, the last thing you’ll want to be doing is chatting to the obstetric team about how you want the birth to go. You have just one job on the big day: to deliver your baby. This will require all your focus.

Your partner needs to be your advocate, cheer squad and pillar of strength, so you can feel comfortable and in control as much as possible while you concentrate on bringing your baby into the world.

Here are 13 ways your partner can support you during the birth:

1. Attend birth classes with you

Supporting you during the birth starts way before the onset of labour. Attending birth classes will help you both understand the process of labour and birth so you have a fair idea of what to expect. Use this time to ask all the questions you need – knowledge is powerful and if your partner wants to be a pillar of strength for you during labour he’s going to need to absorb as much information as possible.

2. Tour the birth suite

Book in a tour of your local hospital’s birthing unit, so you know what to expect when it’s time to be admitted. Often these places can feel daunting and intimidating because everything is so unfamiliar. Get acquainted with the hospital your baby will be born in so you can take this out of the equation on your day.

Read more about giving birth: 

3. Talk with other couples

Spend time with other couples who have recently given birth, so you can hear their experience and gain some tips, which will be especially helpful if they birthed in the same hospital that you’ll be using. If your friends haven’t had a good experience, you can still benefit from their story by asking what they would have done differently, or bringing up the topic with the educator running your birth class or at your next midwifery check-up.

4. Write your birth plan together

Your birth plan should be created with your partner, so he can understand your hopes and wishes for the birth, as well as express his own. Once he has a firm understanding of how you both want things to go, he’ll be better able to advocate for you during labour.

5. Consider using a doula

Watching you give birth isn’t going to be easy, and your partner shouldn’t be thought any less of if the whole idea makes him feel uneasy and worried. Also keep in mind how long the process of labour can take, and how tiring it can be for a support person in the room, particularly in an emotional way. It’s worth considering hiring a birth doula who can support you both during labour and allow your partner to step out of the room for breaks if he needs it.

6. Discuss a plan for coping if things don’t go as hoped

Birth can be unpredictable, and despite your best laid plans, things might not go as expected. Before the big day arrives, discuss how each of you will feel if your birth plan doesn’t come off; for example, if you need pain relief, need to be internally monitored or a caesarean section is advised. Talk with each other about how you’ll approach scenarios like these so they don’t catch you off guard if they happen.

7. Look cool and calm

Even if he doesn’t feel it, ask your partner to appear cool and collected during the labour, which will help you feel like things are in control. Similarly, come up with some key phrases that will keep you cheered on and positive when you’re feeling exhausted and just want to call it a day.

8. Remind you of your goals

Ask your partner to remind you of your goals for the labour and birth, as these can be swept aside in the heat of the moment. For example, if you wanted to avoid pain relief, but find yourself asking for an epidural, he could gently remind you how well you’re doing without it and help you realign your focus.

9. Communicate with staff

Your partner will be well-versed with the birth plan the two of you came up with and in the delivery suite, it’s their job to make sure this is communicated with whoever comes in to look after you. Often midwives will change shifts and new people will introduce themselves to the two of you – your partner needs to make your wants and needs clear with each and every staff  member.

10. Explain advice to you

It’s not your job to interpret medical speak during the birth. Let your partner listen to the advice being offered, ask questions to increase their understanding and then bring it back to you, explaining it in a clear way that you can understand.

11. Help you make decisions if things don’t go to plan

Part of your birth plan formation needs to cover what your approach will be if things don’t go to plan. If something comes up during the birth that requires a decision from you, your partner can help remind you of your birth plan and support you to consider the options and select the one that suits you both.

12. Be your voice

You may get to a point during the labour where you’re not able to speak because you’re so focussed on breathing and making it through contractions. In fact the best thing you can do if you’re in lots of pain is ignore what’s going on around you and tune into your body. Your partner in this case can also be your voice, speaking up for you when necessary while you stick to your important job, knowing that they have got your back.

13. Debrief the experience

Whatever happens during the birth, it can leave some lingering feelings for your partner, who may have felt helpless and scared watching you in pain. Talk about the labour and birth and be sure to share how you both felt so you can move forward together. Harbouring strong feelings won’t make them go away and could even contribute to postpartum depression or anxiety, which affects partners as well as new mums.

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