Decades ago, dads paced impatiently in the lobby while their babies were brought into the world, passing out cigars and slaps on the back when their little bundle arrived. But today, the scene is much different and men are front-and-center in the delivery room. Some prefer to stand as far from the action as possible, others ask to catch the baby and want as much involvement as they can get. So how can a dad be involved in the birth of his baby? Besides holding a leg and counting to ten, there’s a lot to be done to help mom through this challenging and emotional time.
- Pant-Pant-Puff: Dads should go to childbirth class. Even though a lot of dads-to-be dread the idea of childbirth class many faithfully sign up and trudge along with their partners. No matter how daunting it may feel, childbirth class is a great support for mom and dad. First, take advantage of the anatomy lesson your instructor will provide as he or she explains the changes mom is and will be going through in preparation for delivery. You will also learn a few basic coaching techniques and tricks to help mom manage pain and stay calm in the rough spots. Dads should also take notes on real vs. false labor and be ready to help mom decide when it’s time to leave for the hospital.
- Timing is everything. Dads should time contractions. “How long has it been since the last one?” Your partner may ask, and dad had better know the answer. When true labor begins, contractions will be regular and come at regular intervals. Chances are that early contractions will be light and easy to breathe through, and that mom is taking this cue to do everything but time them. She may be showering, packing bags for siblings or taking care of last minute tasks so it can be dad’s job to time contractions and keep notes on when they occur and how long they last based on mom’s reports.
- You can do it! Dads should be mental support. There’s not much better than a good support person in labor. Now I know that not every dad wants to be right in the action, but that doesn’t stop you from being up near your partner’s face, looking them in the eyes and helping them focus. Soft words, holding her hand and gentle encouragement may be just what she needs to muster the energy for that final push. And if you are looking for a bit of concrete evidence on the fact, Childbirth Connection reports that, “Continuous support during labour has clinically meaningful benefits for women and infants and no known harm. All women should have support throughout labour and birth (Hodnett and colleagues 2011).”
Every dad has a part to play in the birth of his child—and that can be as little or as much action as he chooses. Couples should discuss dad’s role in the delivery room before baby’s arrival so everyone is clear on dad’s wishes. So hold that leg, count to 10, or just whisper sweet words, either way it will all make a difference.