A Dad's Guide to Giving Birth

Get Your Head in the Game

As the saying goes, knowledge is power. So in the months before your baby’s due date, make an effort to learn as much as possible about the labor and delivery process, advises Cheryl Coleman, R.N., an ICEA-certified childbirth educator at Oklahoma State University Medical Center in Tulsa. Attend childbirth classes with your partner and read any pregnancy books that you can get your hands on.

While a class or book can’t prepare you for every possible situation, “it can give you an idea of what to expect and help you understand when and how to best support your partner,” explains Jeff Lucia of Fallbrook, Calif., who was by his wife’s side for the births of their three children. As the big day approaches, sit down and talk to your partner about how she’d like to see things play out in the delivery room.

Is there anything in particular she’s worried about? What can you do to help make things easier or more comfortable? How does she feel about getting an epidural or some form of pain relief? While she may not have all the answers, she may be able to clue you in to what’s important to her, so you can be certain her wishes are followed.

At the same time, be sure to discuss any anxieties that you’re experiencing as well. Like many expectant dads, you may be concerned that you won’t know what to do, something will go wrong during the delivery, the baby won’t be healthy or you won’t be able to handle seeing your partner in pain.

Or maybe you’re scared to death of hospitals or get queasy at the sight of blood. Remember: There’s nothing to be embarrassed about. So don’t hold back! Just opening up about your fears should help alleviate them. What if you’re not entirely sure that you want to take on the job of birth coach, or you’d prefer not to participate in every single aspect of labor and delivery? Now’s the time to speak up.

“Not all dads feel comfortable providing full support and care,” Coleman explains. “Sometimes they just want to be the hand-holder. That’s fine as long as the mom isn’t expecting more from him.” So talk to each other about what your role will be to make sure that you’re on the same page. One good option might be to have a doula on hand to offer suggestions and act as a backup, allowing you to participate in the labor process at any level you choose at any given time.