Let’s throw it back to the 1950s where only the aristocratic Dads may have made an appearance in the birth room to welcome a son. The majority of Dads would be waiting in the pub for the news of the arrival of the baby at a homebirth or sat in the hospital waiting room, only to see the baby when their wives would be clean and decent. It was deemed inappropriate for the wives to be seen by their husbands behaving the instinctive, primitive way that labour brings.
Fast forward 60 years to now and Dads are thrown into the birth rooms with often not a scooby doo to what to expect or to do. With the role models from one born every minute spotlighting Dads to be jokers and a spare part in the birth rooms, more concerned with whether they’re going to eat the pickled onion monster munch or the sour cream Pringles. It’s no wonder with the media portraying Dads this way that they find their comfy chair in the birth room, open up their snacks and load up the iPad with the latest football match and settle down for the next few hours, leaving their other halves and the midwives to it.
What would you think if I told you that as a Dad, you are the best asset to birth? You can reduce the want for pain relief and make birth run more smoothly. Oxytocin is the reason why. Dads are the biggest source of oxytocin, with this hormone being the love hormone. A high level of oxytocin means a high level of endorphins (your body’s own morphine supply) and stronger, more regular contractions (oxytocin directly acts on your uterus muscles.)
So to the Dads out there that want to be that difference to the birth (that’s all types of births), here’s my tips for you…
1. Touch- Holding a hand, massaging the lower back, popping a hand on your partners shoulder. Touch increases the oxytocin and let’s her know you’re there.
2. Have a good poker face- No matter how you’re feeling underneath, bring out your best poker face. If she sees fear in you, she’s either going to feel scared herself or feel like she has to reassure you. Either of these are not ideal for her oxytocin levels.
3. Encourage her to eat, drink and wee often. Eating and drinking because the uterus is a muscle that needs nutrients to work effectively. You wouldn’t run a marathon without fuel. Wee often because if the bladder is full then baby’s head can struggle to get past it- women in labour often don’t get the same urge to wee as they do in pregnancy so need reminding to go.
4. Help pack the hospital bag- during birth if she asks you for her flannel for her forehead, or her Vaseline as the gas and air is drying out her lips, you’re going to want to know where it is in that bag. If your partner has a cesarean then all the baby clothes/hats/nappies are going to be your responsibility to find afterwards.
5. Get involved in the birth prep too. Help make the playlist, help research the birth plan. Knowing what will be happening in all avenues of the birth will mean that you can be confident and provide reassurance. Antenatal class can help you with the knowledge that you’ll need. If you know the choices she’d like then you can work with the midwife to make this happen. In the thick of contractions it can be a challenge to make and voice decisions so you’ll be the main communicator.
6. Tell her she’s doing amazing, tell her everything is going well, rather than asking her if she’s ok. If she’s feeling uncomfortable with contractions then she’s probably not going to say she’s fine and dandy.
7. Be a leaning post. If your partner is upright and leaning forward her pelvis will be open an extra 28% meaning more room for baby to pass through. And again the closeness will increase the oxytocin.
8. Be present. Try and limit the use of phones or iPads. When you’re trying to birth a baby and your hubby is scrolling Facebook it can feel a tad isolating.
9. Get your dose of skin to skin after with baby. It can be great for your bonding with baby, helps regulate their temperature, heart rate and breathing. Plus it gives your partner the chance to rest after birth and have two hands to eat the well deserved tea and toast.
10. Look after yourself. There’s nothing worse than having a hangry Dad in the birth room. Pack yourself lots of snacks and drinks so you can stay well fuelled too. Pack yourself a change of clothes too and maybe a toothbrush as labour and birth can take a while.
12. Practise the techniques with her in pregnancy. This can be breathing techniques, counting, visualisations or relaxations from hypnobirthing. What ever coping techniques you are going to use, you’ll need to know what they are to be able to prompt them when the going gets tough- this can be in the car on the way to the hospital, in the waiting room or during transition when birthing mums tend to momentarily lose control.
13. Sort the practical stuff- know who to call, where to park, how to get there, how to get the car seat in the car for the ride home. This will take lots of the pressure off.
Remember YOU are the biggest source of oxytocin in the room. Don’t underestimate your role in the birth room.