What Can Fathers Expect During Labor and Delivery?

Many first-time fathers do not know what to expect when preparing for the birth of their child. It may seem very overwhelming, intense and complicated when thinking about the birth process. You may have your own worries and concerns outside that of the mother and new baby. Here are some steps on how to prepare for the birth of your child:

1. Join in on a childbirth class. Lovelace Labor of Love offers classes on what to expect before, during and after your baby is born. Mothers love for their partners to join them in these classes because you both can experience this amazing process together. There is much for the both of you to learn. We offer Baby Care Basics, Breastfeeding Basics (Yes dad, this one is for you too!), and Prepared Childbirth. Two free classes for both mom and dad/partner to consider are Loving Families and New Parent Group.

2. Recognizing when your partner is in labor. You will know your partner is going into labor when she starts feeling the onset of contractions. Usually, a woman will start feeling contractions before her water (amniotic sac) breaks. If the bag of waters breaks, she may go into labor shortly after. She may feel lower back pain; this is normal. One thing to remember is your partner might experience false labor, also known as Braxton Hicks contractions. These contractions are not as intense and may come and go. This is why it is very important to keep time of her contractions. Once her contractions start lasting longer and occurring closer together, it is time to head to the hospital. Be sure to ask your midwife or doctor who and where to call if you think you are in labor.

3. What can you expect during labor? It is important to know all the stages of labor so you can try to understand what your partner is going through in that moment. Consider preparing by watching videos or reading about labor and delivery, as well as, attending classes.

Labor has three stages:

  • The first stage of labor has three phases. In the first phase, also known as the early phase, your partner may start to feel her contractions getting stronger than before. This phase can last from hours to days. In the second phase, which is the active phase, contractions for your partner are a lot more intense. This is the phase where you may want to ask your partner if she will be wanting to receive any pain medications, if she can. In the last phase, transition, your partner is having intense contractions and it is almost time to push! She may be cranky, so don’t get offended if she says anything hurtful to you. She is in pain, frustrated, and is ready for the baby to be born.
  • The second stage of labor is the actual pushing and birth of your baby. This can takes minutes to hours. Sometimes for first-time mothers, this can take a while, especially if she has had an epidural. It is very important to support your partner in this stage because it may be when she needs you the most. After your baby is born and whenever possible, your baby will be placed on the mother’s chest for skin-to-skin contact. We call this the Loving hour. It is a time meant for bonding and for mom to help regulate baby’s vitals and to prepare for the first breast feeding. The father is also more than welcome to have skin-to-skin after the Loving Hour.
  • The third stage of labor is the delivery of the placenta. Your partner may have another push or two just so the doctor or midwife can deliver the placenta. The placenta provides oxygen and nutrients to your baby while he is in the womb. You may be able to take a look at it, some people actually take it with them. The decision is up to you and your partner.

4. How can you provide comfort for your partner? It is very important to comfort your partner before, during and after the birth of your child. Ask her before labor begins so you have a few options that may work depending on how she is feeling. You can help physically by actually giving your partner a massage or getting her something to eat. You can use comforting phrases such as “You’re amazing” or “I am here for you” or “You’ve got this.” She may just need quiet during this exhausting, yet breathtaking experience.

The birth experience is a wonderful process. We want you and your partner to enjoy this very special time. Attending classes together will allow you to be aware of what to expect and what to do when it is time to welcome your child into this world. Please do not be afraid to ask questions of the doctor, nurse, or midwife during your partner’s labor and delivery. If you need to find an obstetrician or midwife, or have questions about Loving Start prenatal education classes, please contact www.lovelace.com/laboroflove for more information or give us a call at 505.727.7677.

This blog submitted by Jamie Vigil, student doula and intern for Lovelace Labor of Love.