A Dad's Guide to Giving Birth

Be a Team Player

Her water has broken or contractions have started. Now what? Whatever happens, it’s important to stay calm, comforting and reassuring, advises Jason Keim of Vancouver, Wash., who coached his wife through the birth of their 9-month-old son.

By keeping your cool and soothing her fears, you’ll make it a more pleasant experience and you could help reduce the amount of pain she suffers both during childbirth and in the postpartum period, according to a recent study published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine. The study examined moms who had C-sections, but chances are the same would be true of a vaginal delivery. During early labor, experts recommend using the power of distraction to help pass the time and minimize her discomfort.

Try playing catch with a squishy ball, playing a trivia game, telling jokes and stories, watching movies, rubbing her back or feet, or going for walks. Use a digital watch to time her contractions, and if she’s in pain, count or breathe along with her. Periodically ask if she needs anything, or try to read her signals and act accordingly.

Note: Now is not the time to complain about your aching back or turn on the TV to check the score of the big game. “Support should be defined by what the mom-to-be wants and feels,” Lucia says. “Sometimes just being there and listening is all that’s necessary.”