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A dad's role at birth

By
WebMD Feature
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

Forget handing out celebratory cigars in a hospital waiting room when you're told your wife's had a boy or a girl like our granddads may have done; the role of fathers during birth is now far more hands-on.

These days most dads in the UK are at the birth and play a vital role in supporting their partners, whereas 40 years ago they were often given the cold shoulder in delivery rooms.

The policy of the NHS and the Royal College of Midwives is to encourage dads to get involved in maternity care and feel welcomed at the birth of their child.

'Reaching Out: Involving Fathers in Maternity Care' is a joint publication from the Royal College of Midwives, the Fatherhood Institute, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the Department of Health. It suggests a father should be actively prepared to be a helpful and knowledgeable birth partner. He should understand his role in the labour room and the ways in which he can be useful.

Antenatal teacher Kelly Mitchell says: "Often the dads at my classes haven't been asked what they want. It's taken for granted that dads want to be at the birth. Of course, for many this is true but for others they feel so much pressure to be so many things; masseur, advocate, protector of the birth environment, protector of his labouring partner.

"Somewhere in all of that he needs to try to enjoy [his] own experience of becoming father to this baby."

Here some tips for dads on being a good birth partner:

Preparation

When the time comes you should know what's likely to happen. You should have attended antenatal classes with your partner and have maybe watched a film of a woman giving birth.

You should be familiar with your partner's birth plan - what she ideally wants to happen during the process.

Neil Sinclair, the author of 'Commando Dad, How to be an Elite dad or carer', says: "There is a whole range of scary elements but my advice is preparation and planning prevents poor parental performance."

He recommends finding out what to expect when a partner is giving birth. "Know what order things are going to happen so you have confidence that you have some knowledge about the procedure."

Support your partner emotionally

Some men feel stressed and anxious about seeing their partner in pain but what she really needs is for you just to be there with her. Just by knowing she has you in her corner can make all of the difference.

"Having someone to fight your corner is vital when all your attention is turned inward at the process of giving birth," says Jennifer Howse who co-founded the website Britmums. "That means fathers who are involved fulfil many roles. Paramount among them is being a trusted supportive partner for the mother."

If your partner wants a relative like her mum or a friend to be at the birth as well that may ease the pressure on you, so you can nip off and have a coffee or go to the loo.

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