Inside: You want to be the best birth partner you can be during labor and delivery, but wondering exactly HOW to do that. These tips for dad during natural labor are the most important things you need to know (the cliff notes version) to feel prepared for helping your wife through a natural birth.
I’m not sure how you spent most of your wife’s pregnancy.
Maybe you were super involved, going to every appointment, helping with the baby registry, scouring baby name lists like a champ, at her beck and call for every pregnancy ache and pain.
Or maybe you were an uninvolved dad. Because you were scared to screw anything up, or you just felt extremely distant from the entire process because, well, you weren’t the pregnant one, after all.
Which is certainly true, and maybe fair.
No matter how you acted during the pregnancy, labor is where you need to step up your game and really be there for the mother of your child, especially because she’s decided she wants a natural labor and delivery.
That might sound ironic given it’s probably the part of this whole having a baby thing that you feel the MOST freaked out about.
Again, for good reason. I mean, your significant other is about to push a BABY out of her BODY. That’s both intense and freaky, for you and for her, trust me.
And she wants to do it without drugs? I mean, really?!!
Whatever your feelings about the delivery part of it all (or her “no thank you to pain meds” stance), I want you to put that out of your head because she’s gonna need you. She’ll need you to be there for her and to have your act together, no matter what’s going on in your head, or your opinions about her natural labor choice.
You probably don’t want to, or don’t have time to read a book about natural labor, so here’s what you need to know.
We did our best to keep this short and sweet.
If nothing else, scan the bullet points (it’s what we all do, right?).
The Most Important Tips for Dad During Natural Labor
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1. Be there for her how SHE needs you to be.
I’ve read blog posts that tell dad to turn the TV off, be right next to her the whole time, and be 100% present (no texting, games, etc.).
While I agree with the sentiment, I disagree with some of the specific “do this” and “do that” going on.
For example, I was the one who wanted to watch TV during early labor. And I didn’t even want my husband right next to me the whole time.
In fact, I didn’t need or want him near me until the very end. Even then, I really didn’t want to be touched or talked to.
The summary? It’s so different for every birthing mom, and she might not know what she wants or needs until she’s in it. That’s what makes it so tricky because how she is during labor might not correlate to how she is normally.
So you’re going to want to…
Tune into her cues.
Does she seem thirsty? Offer to grab her a water bottle.
Is she glaring at you for sitting close to her on the couch in front of the TV? Back off and head to a different room – ASAP.
Is she constantly shifting and looking uncomfortable? Offer to grab her extra pillows, a blanket or comfier clothes.
Follow her lead.
If she wants to dance during contractions, be sure to keep the music running.
When she needs silence, make sure you give it to her.
Ask what she needs or wants.
“Honey, you look cold. Would you like a sweatshirt or should I turn up the heat?”
“Do you want anything to eat? It’s been four hours since you last ate.”
2. Take charge while you take care of her.
Before you go to the hospital or birthing center, you need to do everything you can to help her rest and save strength for active labor.
You’ll both be excited and she might want to get busy doing this and that. Don’t let her!
She needs to utilize the rest time during early labor to have enough strength for active labor and pushing. This is even more important for women who are choosing natural labor because they won’t have the rest time an epidural provides.
You need to be the one to:
- Clean up the house before you leave.
- Pack up the bags and put them in the car.
- Put the car seat in the car (if it’s not already there).
- Grab the hospital snacks and drinks.
- Start timing contractions (more on that later).
Since you’re going to be in tune with her needs and her labor cues, you can help her decide when to go to the hospital.
Once you’re at the hospital, you may need to be her voice and make sure things go according to the birth plan if at all possible.
You need to be available to help make decisions for potential medical interventions, birthing positioning, and pain management options.
3. Know your stuff. Or at least, know the basic stuff.
Okay, so maybe your not a prepper and haven’t done the hours of research that she’s done. That’s okay.
But, I think especially if your wife is choosing natural labor, you need to know some things about the labor process.
This chart is helpful for understanding (at a quick glance) where she is in labor.
Click the image to get your free download.
Familiarize yourself with the general flow of labor so that you know when she is in the different phases of labor.
Get a general idea of:
- what to do in case labor is stalling
- how to time contractions
- how to boost blood sugar
Pay attention during birthing classes.
Woah, what? She didn’t take a birthing class or you missed it?
You are gonna want to remedy that ASAP, my friend, before you head into natural labor and get all kinds of freaked out.
THIS childbirth class is all online, at your own pace. Watch on your own time, in the comfort of your own home.
If you missed class or she decided not to take one, ask her to take this one with you. She’ll thank you later.
You also need to…
4. Talk through her birth plan BEFORE labor starts.
Once she’s actually in labor is NOT a good time to talk about what she wants it to be like.
She’ll potentially be in pain, scared and just want to escape both of those things, no matter what.
If she said she wants a natural birth, you need to both be prepared for what that’s going to be like. You need to ask her how she wants you to handle certain scenarios like…
- her labor is stalling, and doctors are pushing for interventions like pitocin
- she’s exhausted by is only at 4 centimeters
- she is asking for an epidural when she said she didn’t want one
- pain management options (just in case)
These are the things you need to know her opinion on before she goes into labor.
It doesn’t mean there isn’t room for her to change her mind during labor because if it’s her first labor, she has no idea how her body will respond to the pain of contractions, how quickly labor will go, or how she’ll respond to the stress.
But at least a conversation in advance gives you a game plan for a pretty solid game plan during early and active labor.
One more thing: when something changes during labor – there’s a problem with the baby, she’s been laboring for more than a day and a half and not making progress, it’s also your job to listen to the midwife/doctor and be a mediator between them and your wife.
They might be encouraging her to get an epidural or take some kind of pain medication to help her rest. Or they may be saying it’s time to consider other options, like breaking her water or in worst case scenarios, considering a c-section.
If mom is hanging onto the idea of natural labor for dear life, she needs you to have a sense for when to push her to stick with it, and when to encourage her that its time to consider interventions of some kind.
(This is where having a doula or another birth support person in the room – close friend or family member – can be LIFE-SAVING. Truly.)
Sometimes natural labor is taken to near idol-level, and women think they’ll be a failure if they deviate from that plan.
If that happens, as best you can, help her see she’s not a failure.
Healthy mom, healthy baby is the ultimate goal.
5. Take care of yourself.
For the love of all that’s holy, remember to EAT regularly. Stay hydrated.
Pack your own hospital bag. Remember to bring your wallet.
I have heard one too many stories of dads passing out because they forgot to eat while mom was in labor. Or men forgetting things like wallets or underwear or…
The list could go on.
She definitely needs you to take care of yourself, while you’re supporting and taking care of her.
It could possibly be a tall order. But consider it preparation for the days and weeks and months to come with a baby, when you will have a tiny human you share responsibility for.
You can do this!
Worried All These Tips Will Go Straight Out of Your Head During Labor?
My husband was, too.
He was worried that he was going to forget what he was supposed to do, when to do it, and how to do it, but he wanted to be involved during the birth process.
Two years ago to the day, I created my first set of Dad’s Labor Cards for my favorite first time dad (my hubby).
To this day, I can still distinctly remember hearing the flipping of cards during labor. I was so thankful that I had made him that little set of labor coach cheat sheets. And, he was too!
The Dad’s Labor Cards are perfect for you if:
- you’re a first time dad, you want to be really involved but you’re pretty forgetful if you’re being honest.
- you’re worried that you won’t remember how to help your partner when you’re in the thick of labor… and let’s be honest, she is too.
- you know for a fact that you’re clueless about all things labor and delivery (& you don’t have time or interest in getting up to speed).
- you want to be sure that you don’t forget any important detail (like, uh, her birth date or her severe fentanyl allergy)
14 (3×5) cards full of easy-to-read bullet points for the big day… and hey, they’re only $4.99.
Put them on a keychain and bam – you’re ready to be the best daddy-doula there ever was.
P.S. If you’re searching for these tips for your husband (my husband is 99% sure that’s the case), just forward this post to the lucky dad-to-be. You’re gonna rock this, mama! 😉
Kenzie lives with her husband and daughter in beautiful Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. She’s wrestled with infertility, survived a miscarriage, and is overjoyed to finally be a mama to her sweet baby girl she thought she’d never have. She especially loves helping moms who have had miscarriages find hope after loss.