Advice about labour and birth

How you can approach the birth as a father

The vast majority of men (95%) are there when their child is born. It’s usually a time filled with excitement, anticipation and joy when the baby finally arrives. And you are definitely allowed to be nervous – labour is a big thing to be a part of.

Every birth is different, so there is no complete guide to what’s going to happen. But there are still some things you may want to know as a father when your partner is in labour.

Talk things through before the birth

The birth itself will largely take place on your partner’s terms, so it’s a good idea to talk about what’s going to happen and what each of you expects. In some situations, your partner won’t be able to answer or make a decision on her own, so it’s best if you know her wishes and can answer for her.

Talk to your partner about:

  • The role you would like to play as a father during labour.
    • Will you be the one who receives the baby?
    • The person who cuts the umbilical cord?
    • Stand at the head end holding your partner’s hand?
  • What is important to your partner that you can help with?
    • Small talk?
    • Massage?
    • Touch?
  • How much anaesthesia and midwife assistance does your partner want?

Be aware that labour is unpredictable, so no matter how much you have prepared, unexpected things can happen.

How you can help while she is giving birth

The most important thing you can do during labour is just to be there. It can be difficult for many men to find their role during labour. You want to help your partner, but it is hard to see what you can actually do.

From the first contractions to the end of labour, there are some practical things you can do to support your partner.

What you can do to support your partner:

  • Time the contractions. You can time contractions by counting the minutes between the start of one contraction and the next. There are also apps for smartphones that can help with time tracking.
  • Call the maternity ward. When the time between contractions is down to three to five minutes, it’s time to call the labour ward.
  • Make a plan for transport to the hospital. Plan well in advance how to get to the hospital. And make sure you know where to go when you arrive at the hospital.
  • Hold your partner’s hand. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed during labour, but you can hold your partner’s hand, praise and encourage her.
  • Give your partner a massage. Some women like to be massaged, cuddled or caressed in some way during labour. You can ask about your partner’s needs between contractions.

You can also ask the midwife how you can best support your partner during labour.

Remember yourself during the birth

Labour can take a long time, so think about yourself as well during this time. Remember to eat and drink during breaks – lack of food and fluids can make you feel dizzy and unwell. Many men may also need a break during labour to calm down and breathe deeply. Coordinate breaks with your partner and the midwife and make sure you’re around when it starts again.

Be aware of your own limits too. You don’t have to see it all to have been a great support and help during labour.

If there was something about the birth that made you uncomfortable, then you can get help. Many birth centres offer postnatal counselling if you mention it to the nurse or midwife. If you have already been sent home, in many cases you can still contact the maternity ward, or you can get help from your GP instead.