I do need to repent of my midwifery sins of long ago. Taking a photo of a dad when he had fainted during his wife’s labour before running to his aid probably wasn’t my finest hour of compassion. His wife found it highly entertaining though! Once that epidural is in, the cheeky personality of mum (and midwife) can really come out!
I actually do have a real desire to help dads feel valued and useful during labour, as their role really is pivotal in the birthing experience.
Often dad can feel apprehensive about what is lying ahead as he prepares for the birth of his baby. Most dads are wanting to support their partner, but are not sure of the best way to go about it. So many dads comment on the fact that they “felt useless”, “powerless to take the pain away”, or “didn’t have a role” during labour.
Here are my 9 top tips for dads during labour:
- The most valuable role for dad is to be emotionally available. Unfortunately, I have seen dads sit on their computer in the corner getting work done whilst their wife bravely breathes through contractions. The most disheartening situation I witnessed was a mum labouring in our birthing unit corridor so that her partner could have a sleep in the birthing unit bed. This is not okay! To simply hold your partner’s hand, hold a heat pack on her back, rub a tennis ball on that painful lower back area, remind her to do her slow, deep breathing… these simple tasks are emotionally and physically invaluable.
- Have a good idea of your partner’s desires for labour regarding pain relief, baths, music, massage, etc., before the labour begins.
- A doula is a beautiful support to you as dad. She will help you be the supportive partner you need to be. She will advocate for the both of you with hospital staff. She will remind you of helpful actions you can be doing for and with your partner – running the bath, offering sips of water, placing a cool cloth on the brow, deep breathing, massage (note that some mums love massage during labour, whilst others don’t tolerate it), etc.
- Heat packs are highly valuable during labour. You will quickly become familiar with the birthing unit microwave!
- Try not to ask your partner questions during her contractions. Helpful talking is to count a slow breath in for 3 seconds and a slow breath out for 5 seconds – in through the nose, out through the mouth. Your partner needs to be concentrating on her breathing during a contraction; to ask her questions during a contraction will change her mindset from focus to confusion. This will often result in stress and an increase in contraction pain. A soothing, calm voice from you makes the world of difference.
- Be super encouraging after a contraction.
- Try not to eat a beautiful meal in front of your partner without her permission. It is not wise for a labouring woman to eat too much during labour as she will often vomit it straight back up again. Just offer her sips of water, electrolyte drinks and a small chewy lolly between contractions. For those keen on gut health and energy, a bone broth can be great to sip on during labour.
- Be proud of your partner no matter how her labour turns out. She has carried and birthed a miracle. With or without medical intervention, this is an incredible achievement.
- Look after yourself during labour. It can be a long process and it’s a good idea to have a handy stash of muesli bars, water, fruit and coins for a coffee. After all, you wouldn’t want a midwife taking your photo in a compromised state due to your low blood sugar level! 😉