You’re getting closer to your due date and the nerves are kicking in.
Will the first time dad faint in the middle of the delivery room? Does he really know what’s going to happen during labor?
You both want labor and delivery to go as smoothly as possible but how can the dad-to-be help with that?
Ladies, now is the point in which you need to turn the phone over to him to read the 5 things dads should know about labor.
So, dads, let’s jump in!
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5 Things All First Time Dads Need to Know Before Going Into the Delivery Room
My husband’s biggest concern before I gave birth to our first child was that he was going to be useless and in the way. So, we did everything we could before birth to prepare us for what was to come. These are the 5 things that we focused on in preparation for labor and delivery as first time parents.
Related: Dad’s Hospital Bag Checklist
1 – Mom-to-be wants you to be prepared for labor but doesn’t want to have to nag you to learn what you need to know.
Yes, even this post that you’re reading right now is another nudge and attempt to get you ready for the big day. She doesn’t want to bog you down with this stuff but rather wants her main support to be prepared for what’s to come (which BTW these Dad Labor Cards can make a BIG difference).
So, what’s first?
What Dads Need to Know About Labor
I’ll keep this short and sweet for you. My man loves bullet points, too.
- Labor doesn’t always start by a woman’s water breaking. (ahem, she doesn’t need to sit on a towel everywhere she goes)
- It’s important for her to rest as much as physically possible during early labor.
- She might want help timing her contractions. (you can download an app for that)
- It’s completely normal to puke during labor, to poop a tremendous amount before and during labor, and to be extraordinarily cold or hot during labor.
- Each contraction rises, peaks, then decreases in intensity. As labor progresses, they become closer together and have a longer peak each time.
- There is no timetable for labor (first time or not). Labor can be very short or very long and can change in the blink of an eye. The best way to gauge progress is with timing contractions and noting the mom’s behavior. (For example, joking and laughing vs not, walking and talking during contractions vs not, etc.)
- You need to know and have talked through the preferred birth plan (and the backup birth plan) with her before labor.
- Dad, you need to know her preferred pain management options outside of medicine. She may need your help easing the pain during labor. Look into that now!
- After she delivers the baby, she will have to deliver the placenta and might need stitches. During this time, she will be holding the baby skin-to-skin. If she delivers via c-section, you can do skin-to-skin time with the baby at this point.
Show her that you care about all of this labor and delivery information. Ask her questions, share helpful articles with her, and prove to her that you know your stuff.
Worried you’re still going to forget it all once you’re there? There’s a hack for that.
Dad’s Labor Cards are going to be your cheat sheet guide to labor. These little 3×5 cards contain all the little tidbits of information that you won’t want to forget… and trust me, neither does she.
The cards include:
- important medical information that you need to remember (like her fentanyl allergy)
- the main points of your birth plan
- what to do at each point of labor
- helpful reminders to use throughout the labor process as you need them
- birthing positions that you can suggest (making you a total birthing pro)
2 – Dads Really Can Help During Labor and Delivery
To keep it simple, I’ve broken down these helpful things for dad to do during labor by stage of labor.
Related: Hands Down Best Labor Advice Ever
Things for Dad to Do During Early Labor
During early labor, you want to do everything in your power to help mom rest and relax. It will help her to reserve energy for the more grueling parts of labor to come and to have less painful contractions in the beginning. So, make sure that you are helping her to do that.
Here are some ideas of things for you to do during early labor:
- Clean the house (straighten up main living areas, run the dishwasher, take out the trash, etc.)
- Get all of the bags packed and into the car.
- Triple check that the baby’s carseat is in the car.
- Get her food, water, and whatever else she needs.
- Time her contractions.
- Go for a walk together.
- Call the midwife to notify them that she’s in labor after you know for sure that she’s in early labor.
Things Dads Can Do During Active Labor
During active labor, you need to be 100% present with her to support her in any way that she needs. She will be having more intense contractions at this point, she may be hot/cold/nauseous/you-name-it and needs help getting comfortable, and you might need to help her with medical decisions at this point.
Here are some things that you need to be prepared to do during active labor:
- Help her get cooled off or to warm up.
- Remind her to take small sips of water in between contractions.
- Continue timing contractions and get to the hospital/birth center if you haven’t already.
- Help her get into different birthing positions so that she feels more comfortable.
- Massage her back, feet, neck, etc.
- Sway with her during contractions.
- Talk with medical professionals on her behalf.
Related: A Realistic Hospital Bag Checklist
3 – Her labor will be different than other people you know and definitely different than what you’ve seen on TV.
Please, please, please do NOT under any circumstance compare her labor to anyone else’s. Scratch the expectation that:
- she will have a 4 hour labor because your sister did
- that she should be able to have a natural birth because you know someone else who did
- that her labor will last 34 hours because that’s how long your mom’s was when she had you
Oh, and while I’m ranting here, I hope that you know that birth is nothing like what you see on TV (unless you exclusively watch Call the Midwife). It doesn’t have to be an intense time where she screams at you and anyone else she sees while she is wheeled rapidly into the delivery room.
And, you do NOT have to rush off to the hospital the instant that her water breaks. It’s no wonder TV characters get so irritated at how long everything is taking – I’d be bored if I were sitting around waiting for active labor for that long too!
4 – You’re going to be a great daddy doula! Your confidence will be her strength. Take the lead; your gut will guide you the right way.
While I can give you labor tips for dads all day long, the truth is that you’re going to do great. As long as you’re paying attention and looking for ways to help the laboring mom, you’ll be just fine.
Your calm confidence will be her strength and security. She will be able to do what she needs to do because she’ll know that you’ve got her back. And, that should be your biggest goal; for her to feel taken care of and supported to do what she was made to do.
Dad, don’t be afraid to take the lead. Suggest birthing positions, offer her something to eat that you know will help level out her blood sugar, tell a pushy nurse to back off, or whatever else you see needs to be done to help her during labor. Your gut will lead you the right way; trust yourself. She’ll trust you, too.
5 – Bring plenty of snacks and have your bag packed ahead of time.
This is a very practical tip that people might forget to mention. Dad-to-be, pack your bag ahead of time so that you’re not scrambling at the last minute to pack your hospital bag instead of taking care of the laboring mom. And, PACK SNACKS. Seriously, you won’t want to be without some shelf stable food in your bag.
Once baby is born, here’s some great tips on how Dad can help with breastfeeding (‘cus you know the real fun is JUST starting when labor is over!)
Hey, you’ve got this, dad-to-be! I know you’re going to do great.
Related: Best Gifts for New Dads (by a dad)