Dad’s Guide to Labor
Although fathers don’t go through the actual birthing process, they are still integral to the overall labor and delivery experience.
While they won’t be doing any pushing or feel any physical pain, dads are an essential part of bringing a child into the world. If your partner is due any day now, learn what to expect during labor so you can offer her the support and encouragement she needs to make it through the delivery.
Contractions and Timing
When your partner announces that she’s in labor, don’t immediately bring around the car and rush her to the hospital. If you do, you’ll probably spend hours waiting until the baby is ready to make her appearance. Instead, grab a stopwatch and time how many minutes pass between the end of one contraction and the beginning of the next. During early labor, contractions can occur as many as 20 to 30 minutes apart, according to the American Pregnancy Association.
As labor progresses, your partner will start having contractions more often and closer together. When the contractions are about five minutes apart, call your partner’s obstetrician, who will most likely tell you to head for the hospital.
Preparing and Going to the Hospital
When your partner starts having contractions, you can begin preparing for her trip to the hospital. Make sure her bag is packed. Ensure that she has clothes, toiletry items and other necessary items, such as prescription medication. You might want to add a book or magazine to help her pass the time while she’s lying in the hospital bed. Use comfort techniques at the hospital to help your partner power through the pain and discomfort, too.
Penny Simkin, author of “The Birth Partner,” recommends that you listen to her concerns, give her a massage, hold her hand, provide hot or cool packs to ease her discomfort and never leave her alone. She might also enjoy listening to soothing music.
When It’s Time to Push
When your partner starts to actually push, it can take anywhere from 20 minutes to 2 hours till you see the baby, according to the American Pregnancy Association. Contractions last between 45 and 90 seconds and occur every three to five minutes at that point. Offer your partner ice chips when she asks and help her get into a comfortable position to push when it’s time.
Continue offering verbal encouragement and give her positive reinforcement and compliments about how well she’s doing. If you’re worried about a scene from the movies where the woman is screaming at her husband that she hates him and that the pain is his fault, don’t be.
While many women do display frustration and anger, chances are, it won’t be anywhere near as dramatic as it is on television. Your partner might also get overly emotional — which is understandable, considering what’s happening — so stay calm and continue offering encouragement and guidance throughout the process.
If it’s important to you to cut the cord when your baby is born, remind your partner’s doctor or midwife ahead of time. Keep in mind that your baby probably won’t be born looking like the traditional image of newborn. According to the American Pregnancy Association, the baby may be coated with a white, cheese-like substance and have a cone-shaped head. Your newborn is likely to have puffy eyes and swollen genitals, too.
Resist the urge to comment on these, however, because your partner needs to hear how beautiful the baby is. Snap a few photos of these early moments of your baby’s life because your partner may want to see the images she missed out on by being so focused on pushing and then being exhausted afterward.
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