Many parents in my childbirth classes want to learn tips for dads in the delivery room (like how to not pass out and be totally useless). It’s pretty common for dads to worry about being in the way, not knowing what to do, and navigating the hospital scene. Dads really want their partners and baby to have the best birth experience possible!
Tips for Dads in the Delivery Room (Like How to Not Pass Out)
The following tips for dads in the delivery room will help them to feel effective and their partners supported. Let’s get started!
1. Understand the Birthing Process
It would be pretty unrealistic to expect someone to win a soccer game if they hadn’t ever been to one before. In the same way, dads, having never been to a birth, should learn more about the birthing process in order to be most effective on the big day.
Take a Childbirth Class
The first step in understanding the birthing process is to take a quality childbirth class with other couples. After completing a class, partners should be able to
- identify and navigate the stages of labor
- help with pain coping
- participate in the decision making process
- protect their partner’s birth space
- how support their partner and baby right after delivery
- and so much more!
Read Pregnancy Books for Dads
Another way to learn about childbirth is to read the best pregnancy books for dads. Reading is a more passive learning style, so it shouldn’t replace taking a childbirth class, but it definitely has its place.
Here are some of my favorite pregnancy books for dads!
- The Dad’s Playbook to Labor and Birth
- The Expectant Father
- Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth
- The Birth Partner
- Porn for New Moms
- Be Prepared
- The Dude’s Guide to Babies
Create a Plan for Transition
Many expectant fathers worry about knowing what to do when they don’t know what to do.
Here’s the scenario. —>>> Just when you thought it was impossible to get more intense, labor just got a little bit harder. Your partners contractions are coming longer, stronger, and closer together than they were before. She’s throwing up, shaking, and flip flops between being hot and cold. She’s saying she can’t do it anymore! What’s a dad to do?!
This. Is. Transition.
Transition is the shortest part of the first stage of labor, but the most difficult. However, it’s also right before pushing and the birth of the baby. You’re almost there!
Dads, it’s important to read up on transition so you’re not caught off guard by the intensity, but to also have some ideas in your back pocket about how to be most helpful.
Head on over here to read one of my most popular articles about how to get through transition without an epidural. Even if you’re planning on an epidural, it’s extremely helpful to read. You never know how birth will unfold!
2. Advocate for Your Family
Next, in this list of tips for dads in the delivery room, are ways to advocate for your family.
Protect the Birthing Space
One of the simplest things a dad can do to advocate for his family is to protect his wife’s birthing space. It’s important for a woman to give birth with people surrounding her that are supportive, helpful, and that have been invited.
Protecting a woman’s birthing space necessitates a conversation ahead of time about who should and should not be present at the birth. Talk about it during pregnancy to determine if grandmothers and other eager family and friends should be present. Remember, those on the birth team should be
- helpful and
When someone shows up that’s unexpected or not invited, it’s dad’s job, not mom’s, to sort this out. Mom has one job – to give birth. (And that’s a big job!)
One dad I knew had a shirt made that said “birth bouncer” on the front. It was hilarious, effective, and made his partner feel protected!
Ask Good Questions
Many dads are overwhelmed at the idea of navigating the medical scene and fear being passive when it matters the most. Other dads are worried about being too aggressive, making enemies with doctors and nurses, and therefore making everything worse.
No matter what camp you find yourself in, it’s important to approach decision making with the right mindset. Care providers are there to help mom and baby, but they’re also good for facilitating informed consent.
Learn how to ask the right questions. Once you have the right information, it’s much easier to know what to do next.
Talk it Out
Once you get the information you need, it may be helpful to talk it out with your partner… alone. One way to advocate for your family is to request 5-10 minutes to discuss a potential decision with no-one else in the room.
Take it a step further, and you could even phone a friend. (Hey, it’s been done before!)
Head on over here to learn a really neat acronym that will help you make informed decisions with your partner. Not only is it helpful for labor and delivery, but it’s useful during pregnancy and postpartum too. I love it!
3. Plan for Self-Care
There’s a reason flight attendants ask people to place their oxygen mask on themselves before assisting others. Passengers are pretty useless if they’ve passed out due to oxygen deprivation!
To be the most effective birth partner, it’s important to consider yourself in the process. How should dads take care of themselves during birth? (Here’s where we talk about how to not pass out. 😉 )
Pack a Bag
First off, you’re going to need to pack a bag. Here are some ideas of what to pack.
- Clothes (Hospital rooms may be cold. Layers are so helpful!)
- Toiletry kit for men (or something like this)
- Swim trunks in case you join mom in shower/tub
- A small blanket, pillow and warm clothes to help you sleep better in a hospital room
- Cash and change for vending machines
- Phone, laptop and chargers
- Camera and charger
- Food, snacks and drinks (use a small cooler!)
- Breath Fresheners
- A copy of the book The Birth Partner
Dads Need to Eat Too
Some dads think that if they’re wife isn’t eating, they should abstain too. And some dads just plain ‘ol forget to eat. THIS IS WHY DADS FAINT DURING DELIVERY! DADS FAINT BECAUSE THEY DON’T EAT AND DRINK!
As a doula, part of what I do is to encourage the birth team to eat and drink as required. Sometimes I even go buy dads food so they don’t have to leave their partners.
By eating and drinking throughout labor as much as you normally would (or as close to it as possible!) you will help yourself stay present and most effective when she needs it the most.
Pack a cooler with snacks, drinks, and even meals. If possible, don’t pack foods that have strong smells (onions). Also, remember to brush your teeth and use a mint after eating. Bad breath is distracting for a laboring mom. 😉
Know Your Limits
Dads, if you reach a breaking point, need a time out, have to sit down, or go to the bathroom, that’s ok. You’re human, and have limits, just like the rest of us.
See if there is a nurse or other support person that could spot you for a few minutes while you take a breather. By becoming aware of your limits and taking breaks, you’ll come back a little bit more grounded and helpful. You can’t give from an empty vessel!
Hire a Doula
A doula is a paid professional that provides continuous emotional, physical, and informational support before, during, and after birth. Statistically speaking, doulas make birth better, but best of all, they pair well with fathers.
I find that dads are most effective when the pressure’s off to be this fictitious, amazing, super-doula person (which is an insane expectation having never attended a birth before). When dads can stay present and be themselves for their partners, they provide the most meaningful and effective support.
Hiring a doula can be realistic way to take the pressure off of a father and allow them to be themselves and present. Interview 2-3 to see if a doula is the right fit for your family.
4. Be Selfless
Once dads make self-care a priority, they are able to give of themselves more fully. To support a woman giving birth, an element of selflessness and self-sacrifice is required.
Hide of a Salesman
First, it’s important to have the hide of a salesman. Don’t let rejection and short snippy comments get to you. If someone ever gets a free pass for snippiness, it’s when they’re giving birth, amiright?
The thing is, during labor a woman’s focus and energy is poured into coping through the pain of contractions. To better allow her to cope through this intense physical ordeal, her thinking mind has slowly faded away. It’s extremely frustrating for a laboring woman to have to give detailed explanations or answers to comments or questions. Sometimes, all you’ll get is a short “yes” or “no” and that’s ok.
Let it go, and remember she’s doing her best. It’s hard, hard work!
Say the Right Thing
Many dads want to know what to say and what not to say to their laboring partner. They don’t want to be in the way, but are hoping to be helpful in some way.
In my years of birth work I have heard my fair share of golden nuggets said to laboring moms. Some things were truly golden nuggets – amazing, encouraging words spoken that were very helpful. And some were the other kind of nugget, likely coming from a good place, but nonetheless, unhelpful.
This blog post is all about the latter nuggets also known as things to NEVER say to a woman in labor.
Many dads don’t need to do much to be helpful during labor and delivery. Sometimes, simply sitting with their wife, holding her hand empathetically, and breathing with her is all that’s required. Being fully present and aware of what their partner is experiencing can be enough.
However, just because what a woman needs most in labor is simple, doesn’t mean it comes easy. Our culture, and the technology that comes with it, makes it extremely challenging to be present, especially during labor and delivery.
Discuss with your partner ahead of time about ways to minimize technology during childbirth. Here are some ideas on how to do that.
- Make a list of people that need to be contacted during the birth. Consider asking one of these people to be “point person” to relay any information to the rest of the list. This way you’ll only have to send a message once.
- Turn off all cell phones.
- Only use cell phones out of the birthing room and away from the laboring mother.
- Cover hospital computers and fetal monitor displays with a towel. (You’d be surprised at how hard it is to stop looking!)
Tips for Dads in the Delivery Room (Like How to Not Pass Out)
Sadly, dads used to not be allowed in the delivery room but I’m sure glad they’re back! Men are a tremendous help and support to all who are present during the miracle of birth.
To recap, use the following tips for dads in the delivery room to be effective during the process.
- Understand the Birthing Process
- Advocate for Your Family
- Plan for Self-Care
- Be Selfless
Leave a Comment
Leave a comment and let me know your best tips for dads. If you’ve given birth before, what did they do well? Thanks!
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