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Dad's Role During Birth - Part 1

A key player at conception, and still pretty important now.

By Sam The Doula (Blooming Miracle)Published 2 months ago 5 min read
Photo credit: @captured_birth_photography on Instagram

What you can do to support your partner during labour and birth

Note: Pretty much all this information is applicable for any birth partner, but I've written it with dads in mind. You will still find a lot of it helpful if you're another mother, or a grandparent, or a friend.

Second note: some couples choose not to have the father present. This can be for a range of personal or cultural reasons. This is also a completely valid choice! There are pros and cons to everything, including to whether or not men should be in the room!

You're already doing a pretty decent job

I want to start by saying if you have attended classes with her, and if you are reading this, then you have already made great strides in the right direction.

You're already being a great support by making the effort to understand what is happening to her body during pregnancy and birth, which are both tremendous feats of endurance (even when they don't look like it).

You're also offering excellent support by understanding the choices available, and the decisions she is making about her body, her birth, and her care.

During pregnancy, but also during birth, you fill an important role. Not quite as important as hers, but still. It's largely overlooked by a lot of people. In the past, people used to joke that the best thing a man could do in the birth room was faint, so they could push him under the bed out of the way. For years, fathers have been all but forgotten about in the birth room. Very little has been done to prepare men in a helpful way for what is coming.

Change has been glacial, and even now, dads' needs are mostly going unmet. This would be fine, given what the mother is going through, except that this oversight directly impinges her.

I'm here to redress that oversight.

You're actually kind of a big deal

Not as important as the mother, obviously, and not as important as the baby, either. But still. You were probably a pretty key player at the conception. You're almost as important now, assuming the two of you have a healthy, loving relationship. You're in the best position to bring her comfort and help her feel calm. Do not under estimate your role!

Women need to feel safe and loved as we become mothers. You can achieve this better than any doctor. Ideally, she needs both types of care to be available to her.

Be a cheerleader

You are her advocate, coach and cheer-leading team. She needs someone to encourage her to believe in herself if when the going gets tough.

Even the most confident and assertive women can feel surprisingly vulnerable and unsure of themselves in labour. This come as a bit of a shock, further undermining their confidence. If you know to expect this, you can help her through it.

Be an oxytocin factory

Oxytocin is the love hormone, and it's the main thing causing contractions and progressing labour. You are potentially the best source of it. Physical comfort, soft words of love and encouragement - these things are very important.

Be her "right brain"

Everything discussed in our antenatal workshops is likely to fly out of the window as a different part of her brain is engaged. You can coach her gently about breathing or changing positions, and remind her to use the loo! These sound like simple things, but trust me, they are so important. Something as a full bladder can slow things down.

Hands on help

You can provide physical comfort through hugging, kissing, slow dancing, massage, and rebozo techniques. Many of these things help improve oxytocin levels (progress labour) and foetal position (baby's position), as well as facilitate dilation and descent.

Hold her hand. Use warm compresses (for example on her lower back), and cool cloths on her forehead, face, and neck.

Get practical

Dim the lights, bring her pillows and cushions. Offer sips of water after each contraction. When did she last eat?

Rearrange the furniture in whatever way helps her best through labour. It's generally better if she's angled away from the clock so she can't fixate on it.

Cover the monitor with a paper towel so that neither of you fixate on that either, but the staff can still keep an eye on it. Normal changes can upset you if you aren't trained to interpret them, and this causes a rise in adrenalin - not helpful!


In early labour, she might want something lighthearted to keep her mood up. She might want to dance, and this should be encouraged because it's very helpful! Later, she is likely to want something soft and soothing. Rage Against the Machine is probably not it.

Home comforts

If the birth is in hospital, you can remember those last minute things that can' be packed in advance: phone chargers, a comfy pillow that smells like home!

Prepare now - plan!

Help your partner to write her birth plan ahead of time so that you know what her wishes are. You know what is important to her, how much and why. You can make sure she's being heard and her wishes met as much as possible. You're also in a good position to challenge anything that may go against her wishes.

Prepare now - address your own anxieties

Find someone you can talk to about your own concerns about the birth and becoming a parent. It’s better to have talked about and acknowledged your feelings before your partner goes into labour, so that you can consider alternatives (if these are appropriate) whilst there is still time to do something about it. In my experience, anything you're worried about that you've ignored will come back to bite you on the bottom when the chips are down. You need to be a well of calmness and confidence for her to draw on when her own runs low, and you can't do that if you have unaddressed stuff you're frightened about sapping your own calmness and confidence.

Consider a team-mate

It’s normal to be a bit nervous about being the main support for mum-to-be. The first time I did it, I was, excuse the phrase, shitting bricks. If you think that you both might benefit from additional help you could consider hiring a doula, or seeing if another family member or close friend would like to also be a birth partner. It should go without saying that the birthing mother should be 100% on board with any choice. She can veto any person for any reason.


I do my best to stay practical and solution oriented. I hear too many people say to befuddled, nervous fathers-to-be, "just be there for her!" This is crap advice. It's far too broad and wishy washy. With that in mind, I've tried to give specific examples of what "being there for her" can look like, and (more importantly), why it's important, and not just a bunch of wishful thinking and, as Mark Harris might put it, new age wank.

I'm going to post again and get even more specific, delving into what is helpful when. Look out for that!


About the Creator

Sam The Doula (Blooming Miracle)

Childbirth Eductator since 2011

Building a resource for mothers-to-be to feel informed and confident about their choices

You can find me on Facebook or book classes with me

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