Here comes a mysterious question: what-do-dads, or partners, do when you’re having birth?

If you’ve heard about your friend’s or family’s story about their first childbirth, you’d know how much chaos there can be going on in the hospital room when mums are giving birth. Imagine that you are already panicking about this first painful experience, you certainly don’t want your partner to have any clue about what they should be doing. Oh, and you’ll be surprised how even your smart, considerate (aka perfect) husband can be so oblivious at times like this too.

"As I was lying in the delivery room giving birth to our first child about a month before my due date, waiting for the rest of the action to start, my husband decided to head to Best Buy to buy a video camera so he could tape our son's birth. I'll never forget his last words before leaving the room: 'Don't do anything until I get back!'"  — Kathie G. on Women’s Health Magazine.

“My husband complained he was tired. He fell asleep. The nurse woke him up when it was time to push. He gets up and pulls out his phone, I assume to call family. All of a sudden, I hear Candy Crush music playing. It’s been 5 years and I STILL get angry when I think about it.” — katedean on what to expect.

You get the idea. Now grab your partner already or send him/her this article, you both need this.

Preparation for Labour - What can partners do?

  • Make sure you know her birth plans: She will usually have a plan in mind of how she wants to deliver her baby, make sure to take some time studying her birth plan and be prepared. You should find out the safest and quickest route to the hospital or birth center, do a trial run, and time yourself.
  • Help pack the essentials: You would need disposable underwear, bed pads, nursing pads, socks, warm clothes, IDs, toiletries, baby wipes, and your phone charger in case you’re staying over the night. Check out Mamaway’s Hospital Edit with all the essentials you need.
  • Time the contractions: Read about the 7 signs of labor and how to tell the difference between false or true labor so you know how to time the contractions and when it’s time to take her to the hospital. Braxton Hicks contractions, also known as false contractions, can appear but they don’t last long or progress. True contractions get stronger, longer, and more frequent over time. You should record the time between each contraction for your doctor to make a better understanding of the current situation.
  • Stay Peace and Calm: It’s easy to be alarmed by water breaks or contractions, make sure that you don’t panic on the side, adding chaos to the room. You should proactively calm your partner, give her a gentle massage on her neck or back to help her relax.
  • Distract your partner: Labour can mean a long tiring day for mums, especially if they are delivering their first baby. First-time mums often stay more than 10 hours at the hospital, which can be really hard to bear through without any distractions or entertainment. You can try some light games, prepare a movie or funny videos, or prepare a songs playlist to enlighten her on the long stressful day.

What you can do at Each Phase of Labour

Labors happen in 3 phases: the first contraction, comes pushing and delivery of the baby, and finally delivery of the placenta. It’ll be helpful to understand what’s happening at each stage of labor and how you can help. (We recommend reading our Childbirth Trilogy if you haven’t already, starting from Childbirth Trilogy #1: The 3 Stages of Labor)

First Phase of Labour

Stage 1: Early Labour
This phase can happen from 8 to 12 hours or even days for first-time mums. As a partner, you should try to distract them and help them relax when contraction progresses and they start experiencing pain in their back and belly.

Stage 2: Active Labour
When contractions become more rhythmic, stronger, and more frequent - this will be the time to take your partner to the hospital or birth center. The cervix will continue to dilate to 7 cm during this stage, along with contractions that are 45-60 seconds long and 3-5 minutes apart. You should offer emotional support, help massage their backs, help them find a comfortable position, play music, and keep your partner hydrated.

Stage 3: Transition Labour
When the cervix dilates to 10 cm, the pain intensifies when your baby tries to move his/her head towards the birth canal. She may start panting, shouting out to the air, or start swearing like a taxi driver - don’t be alarmed. You can do some breathing exercises together to keep her breathing stable and help her lie on her back to distribute the stress on her pelvic, cervical spine, and cervical lips.

Second Phase of Labour 

This is the phase where you welcome your little one to the world! The second phase of labor is shorter, it can last from minutes to 1-2 hours, but there’s a lot that you can do here:

  • Ask if you can record the birth on camera or on video
  • Ask if you can cut the cord
  • Help ask the doctor if your partner wishes to have a skin touch after birth or breastfeeding

Third Phase of Labour 

The delivery of the placenta follows by delivering your baby, so don’t get over-excited by the sight of your newborn and lose attention on your partner! She may feel chilly or shaky at this stage, you can offer a warm blanket or warm water for her and reassure her about the baby’s condition.

Last but not least, childbirth is a stressful and exhausting experience - it is essentially a long, difficult fight. You should keep your energy, stay alert to your partner and attend to her needs, and stay emotionally put throughout the process to make it a more comfortable experience. Stay strong Dads and Mums-to-be!