Although I didn’t realize it at the time, my husband’s support during labor with my Cesarean and three HBAC’s (Home Birth After Cesarean) was the most crucial part of my well-being before, during, and even after the birth itself.
Nick, my husband, said that the scariest moment of his life was holding my hand when I was on the operating room table, cut open, and delivering our first child by Cesarean.
I had no idea at the time that he was struggling because he was holding my hand, whispering sweet words in my ear to keep me grounded and focused. He did a fantastic job, so much so that it shocked me to hear he had been so scared.
So naturally, when we decided to write this blog, I went straight to the source and asked, “Nick, what tips would you give to dads to support their partners during pregnancy, labor, and birth?”
In this article, we share the best ways for dads to support during birth, from a dad to a dad. These are unedited, uncensored, straight from my husband’s mouth (and then slightly expanded upon by me).
Tips for dads during labor
Nick and I had a fun conversation in our kitchen about husband support during labor. He was doing the dishes while I took copious notes to make sure I got his phrasing just right. Some of these labor coaching tips came easy to him, and others, he had to think about.
The most fun part was that his tips were many of the things I was already thinking about covering. Not only have I experienced first-hand the difference a supportive husband can make during labor, but I’ve seen labor partners of all kinds in my work as a doula. So, I will list Nick’s exact advice, then add my two cents. It’s a team effort here in the Francom household.
1. Don’t leave her side — let the doula, nurse, or provider go get things for you and her.
Birth partners don’t always understand the value of their presence in the birth room, close to their laboring partner and holding space. You just being there, fully present, is probably the most important role you play.
Leave the details such as getting water, blankets, pillows, and other things you or your wife may need to the support team. This is where having a doula is incredibly helpful.
2. Find out her favorite words and affirmations and use them often.
If you have never heard of birth affirmations, now is a good time to google the term. Using positive, uplifting language in the birth room can create the right environment your partner needs.
Listen as she describes how she pictures her birth. What words does she use?
A big one for me was trust. Trusting my body, baby, birth team, and the location was a big part of me having the empowering birth experiences I wanted and felt confident in.
3. Take time to learn about birth. Don’t leave it up to her to teach you.
Get educated on what the natural birth process looks like and what to expect. Take a good childbirth class such as Hypnobirthing, The Bradley Method, or our signature course How to VBAC: The Ultimate Prep Course for Parents. Check out these great birthing classes help you choose a good fit.
Educating yourselves together will allow both of you to feel prepared for birth and not be caught off guard by events that are considered perfectly normal. Think ahead, be prepared, and learn about your options.
4. Have her favorite food and other things on hand.
Pizza and birth kind of go together in my family. After each of my home births, there was pizza for dinner. It was quite a fun tradition.
You know your wife. You know her favorite things. Gather them ahead of time so you will be ready to rock and roll when it’s baby time, especially if she is planning to labor at home.
Even bringing her favorite pillow to the hospital with you can make her feel more at home. Much of a husband’s support during labor is emotional.
5. If you already have kids, pick up the slack and carry her load.
There is never a better time for serving your partner than when she is pregnant. Pregnancy, labor, and birth have their own unique mental and physical burdens. A husband’s support during labor and all through pregnancy can make a massive difference.
Step it up on household chores like doing the dishes, laundry, cooking, and helping your other children off to school or other activities. Reducing your partner’s stress will make life better not only for her but for you and your baby, too.
6. Show interest in her birth preparation and make time to go to important appointments with her.
What is her birth plan? A big part of a husbands’ support during labor is knowing what the most important things are to her, and making sure she gets them — where safe and possible, of course.
Does she want labor to start on its own, even if that means going to 42 weeks? Does she want to get an epidural as soon as possible to avoid any labor pains? Does she want a natural birth if possible and to avoid any unnecessary interventions?
Ask her what the top three most important things are to her and work with her as hard as you can to make it happen.
7. Two words: foot rubs.
First of all, Nick needs to take his own advice (*insert chuckle here*). He was great at giving me nightly foot rubs during my first pregnancy. By my last, I had to practically beg for the few that I got. For argument sake, we did have other kids to take care of, and he was doing a great job taking care of the household.
The point is, make her comfortable. Foot rubs, massages, sending her for a nap or to bed early are all things that will keep her calm and relaxed during pregnancy and labor.
8. Help her remember to drink water and go for walks.
Whenever I have a client message me with any aches, pains, or ailments, I ask, “How much water have you had to drink today?” I often recommend taking a bath with 1-2 cups of Epsom salt in it or a magnesium supplement.
Good nutrition is especially vital during pregnancy and will help her body perform at its best, helping avoid common pregnancy ailments and support the overall birth process.
9. Open up emotionally with your wife; it will create a stronger bond between you. You know, the mushy gushy stuff.
Use your words. I know, stereotypically, men aren’t as comfortable expressing their emotions. Now is not the time to be the tough guy.
Open up to her. Get vulnerable. She needs to hear your hopes for the birth and your fears. You will plan and overcome these things together.
A husband’s support during labor and delivery can create an even stronger bond between you and your partner — if you are willing to open up and be vulnerable.
10. Make sure she is the first one to hold your baby.
Nick’s thoughts on husband support during labor are spot on.
Being the first one to hold my babies was incredibly important to me after I was fourth in line to snuggle my first-born. I had to wait over two hours, alone in recovery, until they wheeled me into the nursery to meet my baby. For the next birth, my husband knew that was important to me and made sure everyone else knew it, too.
I want to add to this: Ask questions. Speak up for your wife and advocate for her. You are the guardian of her space.
I know it feels like a lot of pressure, but I know you can do it. She will be in a headspace that is not conducive to noticing everything that’s going on or communicating effectively. Remember the BRAIN acronym; it will be your best tool to advocate for your partner and help her make decisions while she is in labor.
11. Always tell her how beautiful she is and how much you love her.
You don’t have to be Shakespeare to say exactly what your wife needs to hear. If words fail you, just tell her she’s beautiful, that you love her, and that she is doing a fantastic job.
Keep it simple, and recognize when silence is necessary. If everything is going smoothly, keep doing what you are doing. If things need to change, adapt, and find the next thing that will work.
Bonus tip for husbands to support during labor: Find a good doula, so your only job is to be there.
Finding a good provider is just one part of the battle of putting together a rockstar birth team. After experiencing the incredible benefits of having a doula for our VBAC baby, my husband would ALWAYS recommend having a doula at our births.
It freed him up to be present with me, to not worry about the particulars, and, of course, to have some pizza.
What other advice would you give to birth partners? Let us know in the comments below.
If you want to hear more dads share their thoughts about birth, you need to listen to episode number 39 of The VBAC Link Podcast, where we interview five VBAC dads about their thoughts on doulas, birth, VBAC, and the best advice for birth partners!