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What first-time dads can expect when it’s time to have a baby

Young white dad holding newborn baby over left shoulder as baby sleeps

Childbirth education classes prepare you for what to expect when you’re a mother giving birth, but when you’re the dad or support person for a laboring mom, you are watching the process from a different perspective. Here are some things dads can expect when it’s time to welcome a new baby into your family.

white man putting hand on pregnant wife belly to show support as she's in labor, timing contractions, pregnancy, early labor

Before you get to the hospital

Labor has several stages including pre-labor or early labor, active labor, birth, and the delivery of the placenta. Dads and support persons don’t have the hard part here, but your role is still crucial in a successful delivery.

You might help mom time her contractions. In early labor, contractions may be mild and irregular. Use an app or write down when the contraction starts and how long it lasts, from the beginning of one contraction to its end, then the period until the next contraction. Keeping a written log will help determine when labor shifts from early to active labor, and it’s time to go to the hospital. As mom is going through the process of labor, it’s helpful to have someone else keep track of the contractions.

When you start to notice mom is in active labor, you might be the one in charge of getting her to the hospital safely. Make sure you have her bag (which is good to have packed ahead of time) and load it into your vehicle. Remain calm and help her into the vehicle. Help her put on her seatbelt after she’s sitting as comfortably as possible. Remember to follow all the laws of the road and drive safely.

white man standing behind pregnant wife in active labor offering support as nurse walks them through process

When you get to the hospital

Having a baby can be an exciting experience but can be stressful for a mom in active labor. Continue to remain calm. If you are the father or the support person, make sure to stay positive and be there for whatever she needs. Your experience will be unique to the two of you. She may ask to hold your hand, or have you rub her back, or she may ask you to sit quietly in the corner of the room. As her main support through this process, keep an open mind and maintain a calm, gentle touch.

Some labors progress faster than others. Based on your unique situation, if there is a moment to catch a bit of sleep, do it. Mom will likely be exhausted after giving birth, so if you’re rested, you’ll be able to care for baby and allow her to take a nap and rest after delivery. Make sure you’re taking care of yourself too, by drinking plenty of water and eating while you can.

The nurse or doctor may ask you to help during the delivery by assisting mom with positioning or by encouraging her through the process. If you are involved with the birth and begin to feel lightheaded or dizzy, tell a nurse immediately. If you have questions, ask them. Be as involved in the process as mom and you are comfortable. Remember, your most important job is to make sure mom is relaxed, and you will be more relaxed if you understand what’s happening.

The process of labor can be intense. Know what your partner wants and be ready to speak up for her if she can’t speak up for herself. You are her best advocate. It’s also nice if you can tell mom she’s doing a great job, and give her updates on how she’s progressing. Encouraging words can keep her focused and relaxed. Also, don’t take anything too personally. You’re important in this process, and mom needs your support.

mother and father with newborn in hospital room, new baby, first-time dad

After baby is born

When your bundle of joy arrives, be aware of the process that mom just went through. Recovery after giving birth can sometimes be difficult for a mom, especially a new mom. Support her in any way you can by allowing her to get some rest.

There is a lot of paperwork that comes with having a baby. Offer to fill some of it out so that mom doesn’t have to do it all by herself. If you have question for the doctor about the health of the baby or any testing, screenings or procedures the pediatrician might do, ask them to explain.

Our team at NMC Health’s Family Birthing Center is here for you if you have any questions about labor and delivery. We want the best for you and your family. If you have any requests or concerns, please let our expert staff know and they will do their best to accommodate.

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