3 tips for supporting Mom and 3 for how to support Dad, too.
For every mother who goes into labor, there's a guy out there (and very likely right there in the labor room) who's having a baby too. I don't mean that literally. Lots of women have babies without a guy in sight and none of the men becoming new fathers actually have even one single contraction. What I mean is, guys in the labor room are important too. They have an important role to play in supporting the laboring mother and welcoming their new babies, but they also have needs of their own. Here are my top three tips for guys supporting Moms and my top three for how to support Dad, too.
How Dad Can Support Mom:
1. Just be there.
No matter what's going down in the labor room, your job is to be a supportive presence. You were there when the birth plans were made and swore you'd do your part to uphold them. Do that, but know that labor is never goes exactly as planned and your #1 job is not to be the birth plan police, but to be the one person as invested in your child's well-being as Mom is. You're also the one who knows Mom best and the one who has promised to support her through thick and thin. Support comes in many forms and sometimes it's passive, not active. Just be there.
2. Don't be bossy.
We're moving away from the dad-as-coach role and towards a dad-as-partner model of support. No matter what you were taught in your prenatal education class or how often you remind her, Mom won't forget to breathe. She knows what she needs better than you, so even if she's miserable and you disagree, when she says, "I don't need an epidural right now," it's her call, not yours. And even if she swore she'd never get one, if she changes her mind and says, "get that epidural NOW!" it's up to her. Don't tell her what to do, but support her to make the best decisions for herself.
Related: 8 tips for birth partners
3. Use your muscles.
Nobody gives a better back rub than a dad who knows his wife's body. One of the all-time best ways to relieve back labor (In addition to getting on your hands-and-knees) is for dad to apply counter pressure at the spot where it hurts the most. Make a fist and apply the flat part between your knuckles to her back using continuous pressure. Another good way to support mom is to literally support her body weight. When she's in a squat or leaning on the bed or on all fours, wrap your arms around her and help her maintain that position comfortably.
Related: Labor positions to try
How Grandma, Friends, Nurses, Doulas and Labor Support Members can Support Dad:
4. Don't hog his spotlight.
This happens too often. All the ladies in Mom's life are so eager to be "the one" who provides the ultimate support they shove dad out of the way. I get it. Women understand what women need and if they've been through labor, they know what works. BUT – he's the dad, it's his baby and he deserves to be "the one," unless he and Mom have decided he's not "it." When dad is supported, he does a better job than anybody else of supporting Mom and welcoming his own child. Consider it an extension of the intimacy that created that baby in the first place.
5. He has physical needs, too.
Dad's providing labor support get hungry, thirsty, tired and have to pee. Designate someone to spell him so he can take care of his own biology so he doesn't faint or fall apart.
6. He's totally stressed out.
Nothing's harder on a guy than to see the woman he loves in pain and being helpless to make the pain stop. That leads some guys to make demands on their wife and staff they really don't need to make, like insisting on an epidural or pain medication that mom might not really want. Stress also causes some guys to check out or be clueless about how to be supportive. Sometimes, all dad needs is someone to provide them a little reassurance that everything's OK.
Jeanne Faulkner, R.N., lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and five children. Got a question for Jeanne? E-mail it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
This Fit Pregnancy blog is intended for educational purposes only. It is not intended to replace medical advice from your physician. Before initiating any exercise program, diet or treatment provided by Fit Pregnancy, you should seek medical advice from your primary caregiver.