Congratulations, you’re a dad to be! Do you know what to expect when your partner is expecting?
Apart from watching your partner go through a myriad of physical and psychological changes, pregnancy provides you with time to fully prepare for birth and fatherhood.
There’s plenty of helpful reading material available on this subject, with many pregnancy books for dads. Mark Harris’s book ‘Men, Love & Birth’ is excellent, and gives you an insight into pregnancy and how it affects women, as is ‘Commando Dad’ by Neil Sinclair.
During pregnancy, spend time openly discussing both your hopes and fears for pregnancy, labour and parenthood, as they will differ widely.
How to be a Good Birth Partner
As a birth partner you have a vital supporting role during labour and it is important that you are aware of what is expected:
- Make sure that you’ve also packed your ‘hospital bag for dad’.
- You should have read and understood your partner’s birth plan; the research behind it, and why those choices are important to her.
- Ensure that the birth environment is as perfect as possible; is it too cold/warm? Too bright/dark? Too noisy?
- Ensure that she has enough to eat and drink, and make sure that you are drinking and eating well too.
- Remind her to visit the loo and empty her bladder; this is often overlooked but can cause problems during labour and afterwards.
- Encourage your partner to change positions to the ones where her contractions are most effective (this is usually sitting, standing).
- Provide back pain relief by rubbing her back. Fantastic Skin Elastic is ideal for massage, helping to ease and soothe pain and discomfort. Take a look at our blog post for the best ways of how to massage pregnant women, to be beneficial for you, her and your baby. Also ensure that a wheat bag or hot water bottle are warm to ease back pain.
- Encourage her to use all methods of non-medical pain relief available prior to stronger methods, but do listen to her if she’s requesting something stronger.
- Discourage her from lying down, especially if it reduces the frequency of the contractions.
- Use a calm, soothing and quiet voice and limit any unnecessary conversation.
- Offer physical support, if needed.
- Encourage her to keep going, no matter how tired you or she has become.
- If you are having difficulty watching your partner in pain you should keep it to yourself; do not raise the issue with your partner.
- If things are not going to plan, explain this to her clearly and tell her what is being recommended but avoid the temptation to make the decision for her.
- Make sure you have regular breaks.
How to Prepare for Labour
You will have prepared for the birth during pregnancy and are now both waiting for labour to begin. When it does happen, keep calm and relaxed. If anything about your partner’s behaviour surprises you, it is important that you do not let her see or realise this. Encouragement during this time works wonders.
You should not feel that you’re expected to empathise with contraction pains, and don’t feel bad or guilty if your partner is coping fine on her own, especially during the early phase of labour, do get some rest or sleep. Once her contractions become more intense you will need to be rested, strong, reassuring and supportive as she begins to actively give birth.
With that in mind avoid the following:
- Do not tell your partner (or your midwife) that ‘she is tired’ or ‘can’t do this anymore’
Labour is physically and mentally exhausting, but there is no place for negative thoughts. It is a marathon, not a sprint, so keep positive. It can be difficult to see your partner in pain, and if you find you are struggling to cope, remember that your partner is doing all this for you and your baby. Forget about your issues and tell her how amazing, incredible and strong she is, and always put her and how she is feeling above all else, especially yourself.
Having a coping strategy in place can be invaluable for you and your partner, especially during a tiring or difficult labour.
How to Support Your Partner During Labour
Once you are on a labour ward the atmosphere may change and you may find it more challenging to question situations that you are unsure or unhappy about. You are your partner’s advocate so make sure that your midwife understands your partner’s birth plan and any wishes for the birth. There may be occasions when your midwife or obstetrician discusses with you both possible interventions that may be needed, for example the hormone drip. This may make you feel overwhelmed with responsibility.
In order to ensure that you both have all the information needed to make informed choices use the following mnemonic device to ask the following questions of the proposed treatment:
B Benefits of the proposed treatment or intervention?
R Reasons it may be needed?
A Alternatives to the proposed interventions?
I Instincts, what does your partner feel she wants to do?
N Nothing, if you don’t act what will happen?
By using this questioning tool you will be able to ascertain whether or not the intervention is entirely necessary and be reassured as to the reasons for it. During this discussion ensure that your partner has heard and understands the information, and ask her to make the final decision.
Labour is exciting, tiring and emotional, but be there for your partner. Afterall, the results are worth every moment.