10 Labor and Delivery Support Tips for Partners

Wondering how to support your partner during labor and delivery? We rounded up some advice from veteran parents and experts who know what happens behind the scenes.

Mom giving birth holding husbands hand
Photo: Gorodenkoff/Shutterstock
01 of 10

Prepare for Labor and Delivery

childbirth class

Childbirth education classes can be extremely helpful to help you prepare for what's to come. Learn about the phases of labor, what's happening to your partner's body, and the reasons for a C-section. Knowing what to expect can help make the experience more comfortable for both of you.

02 of 10

Get Ready to Wait

Husband in delivery room during labor

Labor may be exciting, but it can also be tedious. In fact, you may spend hours doing nothing more than waiting. Take your partner's mind off their discomfort by keeping them busy. "If your partner has an epidural, there may be less need for physical support during the beginning stages of labor," says Sarah Kilpatrick, M.D., Ph.D., a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Illinois, in Chicago. "Instead, you should be ready to keep her occupied with music, conversation, and card games."

03 of 10

Show Your Support

woman in labor in hospital
Layland Masuda/Getty Images

"A person can become panicky during labor," says Cathleen Maiolatesi, a nurse at Johns Hopkins Hospital, in Baltimore. "And the best person to get them back on track with their breathing is their partner. After all, you know them better than anyone else."

As the contractions grow more intense, reassure your partner that they're doing a great job and that you love them. You can also help by feeding them ice chips or wiping the sweat off their brow. And though some people don't like to be touched during labor, others appreciate a neck or back rub. If you don't know how to best support them, don't be afraid to ask your partner or the delivery nurse for suggestions.

04 of 10

Ask Questions

labor and delivery nurse

There's a lot of action in the delivery room! If something is happening that you don't understand, again, don't be afraid to ask the nurse questions. The answer could put your mind—and your partner's mind—at ease.

05 of 10

Monitor Contractions

Pregnant woman having labor contractions

Your partner can't see the contraction monitor, but you can. This means you can talk them through the contractions, describing when they're about to peak and start subsiding. Narrating what's going on—when one's starting, when it's ending—may give them a sense of control. (Just keep in mind, if they have an external monitor, it's only tracking how often contractions are happening, not how intense they are!)

06 of 10

Advocate for Your Partner

dad supporting mom in labor
Ian Hooton/Getty Images

Don't wait until your partner is in the throes of gut-wrenching contractions to find out what kind of assistance they'd like. Discuss their birth plan in advance—find out how they feel about episiotomies and their expectations of the doctor. The realities of labor may cause your partner to change their mind.

On the other hand, your partner may need your help advocating for what they really want, even if they are having trouble communicating. You know them better than anyone else in the room. Your job is to support your partner, no matter what they choose.

07 of 10

Get Pictures (With Permission)

Quizler Delivery Partner Result Husband Soothing Wife In Labor
Olesia Bilkei/Shutterstock

"When my wife saw the photos of our son's birth, she discovered things she had either forgotten or been too emotional to remember," says Gulu Gambhir, of Annandale, Virginia. If you're recording the birth, some angles are better than others. In other words, don't point the camera right at your partner's crotch, unless you never plan to show this movie to anyone else or you've talked about it ahead of time. (There's nothing wrong with that angle, of course, but you'll want to be sure it's something your partner wants too, since it's their body.) You could shoot over your partner's or the doctor's shoulder, or record from the side. Additionally, be sure to check ahead of time with your doctor or midwife about recording the birth; some don't allow it.

08 of 10

Know That Giving Birth is Messy

Woman In Labor Pushing Hard Pain

Giving birth gets gory. Your partner may even have a bowel movement as they're pushing. They'll probably make primal noises you've never heard before. Your job, no matter how unsettled you may feel, is to say this: "You're doing great!" Actually, they're not even paying attention to your words. It's your familiar voice and reassuring tone that they're tuning in. (One other thing you may find a little unsettling: After the baby is delivered, the placenta still needs to be delivered too and itt looks like a huge piece of liver.)

09 of 10

Don't Complain

Husband supports wife in labor

"Do not complain or act bored (no yawning)," says Carole Arsenault, RN, IBCLC, and author of The Baby Nurse Bible. "I've heard many dads complain about a sore back because they've been standing next to their wives for so long." She adds that the labor experience is completely focused around the one giving birth. "A laboring person may want to squeeze their partner's hand during a contraction," says Arsenault. She encourages you to tough it out: a contraction typically lasts about 60 seconds.

10 of 10

Make the Occasion Special

Newborn Baby At Birth Crying

Your partner's resting, the baby's sleeping peacefully in the hospital bassinet, and you've contacted the relatives. Think it's time for a nap? Not yet. "Your partner has been through a lot both physically and emotionally," says Claire Lerner, L.C.S.W., a child-development specialist with the nonprofit group Zero To Three, in Washington, D.C. "It's a good time to show them how much you love them." Bring flowers, splurge on chocolates, or write them a love note. Whatever you do, find a special way to mark the occasion. "My husband showed up with roses and a Scrabble game—something we had played endlessly while we were dating," says Aimee Ellis, of Agawam, Massachusetts. "I was so touched that I couldn't stop crying."

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