We live in a society that does not really expect men to be good at “all that birth stuff”. Although men are no longer expected to lurk around the waiting room smoking a cigar, (for a start the NHS is now strictly smoke-free) there is an expectation that men are likely to be, well, a little bit useless when it comes to supporting their partner during labour and birth. It is a fact that the vast majority of birth books, blogs, articles, and classes are aimed at mums-to-be rather than their birth partners, and men are generally assumed to not be interested in the process of pregnancy and childbirth, a view which our media and culture do nothing to counter.
What happens it that we then end up with a vicious circle where men are not seen as being interested in birth, so the resources are not always aimed at them. This can result in them going into the birth unprepared, perhaps unable to support their partner as fully as they might otherwise have done, which then feeds into the idea that men generally make bad birth partners.
This notion is not only outdated, but it is harmful to both men and the women they support alike. We know that having continuous loving support during labour is one of the best ways to ensure a positive birth experience and dads are very well-placed to provide such support. More than that, many fathers wish to be more actively involved, but aren’t sure where to start or what to do.
Below, I share some practical ways in which dads can support their partners during pregnancy, labour and once your baby is born. However, my most important suggestion is this: get informed. I’m going to say it plainly. The more you learn about labour, birth and the postnatal period, the better your role as a birth partner will be and the more likely you both are to actually enjoy the experience. There is no rule out there saying it has to be the woman who does the research into birth and parenting. Doing your own reading, going to ante-natal classes and midwife appointments with your partner (as a willing participant, not under duress!) and being able to contribute to discussions about birth and parenting are likely to make you both feel equally involved and invested in your baby, and may strengthen your relationship.
Men I meet often speak with regret about their role during their child’s birth. “I wish I had been able to speak up for my wife.” “I wish I had bothered to do more research so when we needed to make choices, we had made different ones.” “I feel as though I didn’t support my girlfriend when she needed me most.” “If I only knew then what I know now…”.
Here are some suggestions for ways in which you can support your partner - and your new baby - through pregnancy, labour, and beyond.
Once your baby is in your arms
Happy Father's Day to all dads and soon to be dads!
Kicki Hansard is a member of Doula UK, however any opinions expressed on this blog are personal views and not necessarily the view of Doula UK.