Childbirth tips: How dads-to-be can help in the delivery room

by My Kent Family reporter

Many dads want to be present for the birth of their children - but very few have any idea what to do while they're in the delivery room.

New research has found more than half of dads want to support their partner as she gives birth - but 47% admit they weren't at all prepared for their role, and three in 10 say they wish they hadn't been in the room at the birth of their first-born.

Only one in 10 dads questioned for the Pampers #ThankYouMidwife campaign believed they were useful while their partner was in labour, with the rest feeling like a 'spare part', 'useless', 'nervous' and 'overwhelmed', and nearly half thinking they were constantly doing things wrong, like stroking their partner's back when she didn't want to be touched.

47% of dads-to-be admit they weren't at all prepared for their role at the hospital
47% of dads-to-be admit they weren't at all prepared for their role at the hospital

Instead of supporting their partner, some dads even admit to passing the time by having a go on the gas and air, taking selfies, and doodling pictures. Another 21% couldn't help making inappropriate jokes, while a fifth played with medical equipment or unintentionally got in the midwife's way.

Going on social media and watching box sets were also popular pastimes during a partner's labour - although just over a third of dads admitted that at some points they had a little cry.

Midwife Michelle Comrie has seen dads fast asleep on the reclining chair during their partner's labour, passing out because of nerves, or feeling sick.

She says: "I've also come back into a room to see a dad dressed up in an apron and gloves, having taken a selfie of himself and his wife to post on social media."

Dads need to be supportive for everyone in the family
Dads need to be supportive for everyone in the family

But she doesn't think too badly of men who get it wrong, saying: "I sympathise with well-meaning dads at such a stressful time in their lives where they have little control."

Uncertain dads in the delivery suite can add to the stress their partners feel, however. A third of mums admit they were worried about their other half while they were in labour - with concerns around how he was coping, whether he was bored, and wanting him to be included.

So what can men do to help most during labour? Michelle advises dads: "Put your partner's needs first and be sensitive to what they want. One woman may need their partner to have a laugh, while for another this could be frustrating.

"The dad should be guided by their partner and their midwife."

Dads should put into practice massage and relaxation techniques they learned in antenatal classes
Dads should put into practice massage and relaxation techniques they learned in antenatal classes

The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) also stresses the importance of a father's role during childbirth, pointing out that many fathers feel stressed and anxious about pregnancy, birth and becoming a father, so they should be involved in antenatal consultations and parent education classes to help alleviate some of their anxiety and prepare them for childbirth and fatherhood.

The RCM says: "A well-prepared father has a positive effect on his partner. Women who have the support of a partner during labour require less pain relief and feel more positive about the birth."

'A well-prepared father has a positive effect on his partner'
'A well-prepared father has a positive effect on his partner'

Here are a few things for dads (and birthing partners in general) to remember while their partner is in labour...

1. Be supportive - even if you're feeling tired; your partner is likely to be feeling a lot more exhausted than you.

2. Give praise and offer reassurance in the form of words, offering drinks, a cool flannel, a fan or massage (if your partner needs or wants to be touched).

3. If your partner is ok being touched, put into practice any massage and relaxation techniques you learned in your antenatal classes. According to the RCM, this can help decrease postnatal depression symptoms.

4. In fact, do whatever your partner asks of you - whether that's providing encouragement, getting them water, or even leaving the delivery room, if that's what they want.

5. Bring something for those moments when your partner may be asleep and there's nothing you can do except be there. Read a book or newspaper, do a crossword, or just listen to music.

Skin-to-skin contact is important too, to help promote bonding and development
Skin-to-skin contact is important too, to help promote bonding and development

6. Be aware and prepared for the fact that midwives are advised to discuss the mother's care with you, and inform you of any complications during the birth.

7. Look after yourself as well. Take time out for fresh air if you feel emotional or light-headed. Comrie says she always encourages expectant dads to eat and drink, and to have a snack bag. But avoid ordering takeaway if your partner isn't in a position to eat it with you.

8. Be ready to hold the baby as soon as is possible. The RCM says that giving a baby to its father quickly, especially following a cesarean, often sees the child calm down more easily. Skin-to-skin contact is important too, to help promote bonding and development.

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