From helpless to helpful: 5 ways dads can help during labour!

It was not until the 1960s that the natural childbirth movement encouraged fathers

to be present during the birth of their child. Men's attendance at childbirth is now nearly universal in industrialized countries with 96% of fathers choosing to be present at the births of their children. 


This change did not happen without resistance by health care professionals. It was believed: 

-      That it was too dangerous

-      That men would panic and faint

-      That is was not a place for sentimentality, sightseeing, or sex gratification

-      That men's presence would increase infection rates and increase of malpractice suits


All these reasons all sound pretty ridiculous now!


What is true though, is that men are mostly underprepared to actively contribute to the birth process.A father who does not know how to assist the mother during labour may experience anxiety,inadequacy and insecurity. Surveys report that the most common feeling among fathers during labour is reported to be helplessness, which we can all agree means they are probably not helping.


We want Dads to know that being helpless in the birth room is not their only option.  


Why it matters: 

Here are some positive effects of fathers being present during labour:

-       Considerably lower anxiety levels amongst the women. 

-       Decreased the likelihood of the mother developing postpartum depression

-       Increased the emotional bonding with the baby. 

o  While mother start the bonding process as early as the first weeks of pregnancy, fathers often only begin to feel connected to the baby during and after the birth.


From Helpless to Helpful – what dads CAN do!

1.     GET EDUCATED: Attend prenatal classes!! 

a.     It will encourage you and your partner to clarify your expectations of each other's role in accordance with your beliefs, motives and desires.

b.     Childbirth preparation classes should give men role/intervention options and help them to search for a particular role that suits them and their partner.

2.     PLAN: Discuss with mom 

a.     Learn more about her expectations and ideas about birth and how she envisages you helping.

3.     COMMUNICATE and ADVOCATE – with the health care team

a.     Clarify in your care plan what will be your ‘’tasks’’ and help the nursing team support you in those task. Examples:

                          i.     “Dad will be in charge of massaging my back, please can you help him position his hands at the right spot if I can’t express it to him’’ OR 

             ii.     “Dad will be responsible for helping me change position and deal with the contractions, if I snap at him, please remind him that it’s not that I don’t want any more help, it’s just that what he is doing might not be working”

b.     Advocate for the mom

              i.     Fathers armed with information about their partners’ goals and wishes can help make sure mom feels safe and respected.

4.     PAY ATTENTION – be physically and emotionally present for mom 

a.     Be with her during each contraction (avoid distractions)

b.     Massage her back

c.     Help her make decisions

d.     Help her maintain a breathing rhythm

e.     Suggest and help her change positions

f.      Distract and entertaining her – if appropriate

5.     CUT THE UMBILICAL CORD! Research suggests that the umbilical cord cutting experience benefits the father’s emotional involvement with their baby, supporting the benefits of his participation and empowerment in childbirth.

So in conclusion, we WANT you, fathers/partners to be present and involved throughout the birth process. We promise that your participation will make an even more amazing experience. All you need is a little knowledge and preparation! 





 "The best moment of my life": a literature review of Fathers' experience of childbirth

-      Thomas Dellmann 

First-time fathers’experiencesofchildbirth

-      AsaPremberg, Gunilla Carlsson, Anna-Lena Hellstr, MarieBerg

Fathers’ emotional involvement with the neonate: impact of the umbilical cord cutting experience

-      Sónia Brandão 

-      Bárbara Figueiredo


Sarah St-Georges