When his wife gave birth to their son George in 2013, England’s Prince William ventured to a place most royal dads hadn’t gone before: the delivery room. For many decades, a dad’s place during delivery was in the waiting room. Today, however, it’s increasingly common (if not expected) that many dads and birth partners will be in the delivery room, playing an active role in the delivery.
Unfortunately, just because a birth partner wants to be present doesn’t mean he or she can actually handle the birth—even though clearly the hard work falls to the mom. From fear of the sight of blood to a weak stomach where the placenta is concerned, squeamish partners can sometimes hit the floor faster than the doctor can announce the sex of the baby.
If you have a squeamish significant other (or are the squeamish significant other), it’s best to say so up front, so you and your partner can take steps to make the birth process go as smoothly as possible.
1. Read up. While there is a fine line between knowing too much and not enough, it’s a good idea for a partner to know what to expect in the delivery room. From understanding how contractions look to having an understanding of typical blood loss (about a half-liter of blood) and how the baby typically looks when coming out, being prepared for these scenarios can turn a surprised partner into a prepared one.
2. Create a plan. A birth plan should include an established role for a partner or any other people present in the delivery room. These roles could include photographer and/or cord-cutter. Also, you may want to discuss in advance who you would want to be present in the surgical suite should an emergency C-section be necessary. While a partner will be directed to stay at a certain distance away to protect the surgical field, a C-section can definitely set a squeamish partner over the edge. Birth plans should be flexible and not rigid—the end point of a delivery is a healthy baby and a healthy mommy.
3. Remember no one is perfect. Many spouses amp up the anxiety because they want to say the perfect thing, be the best coach, or help a partner through painful contractions. If your partner is the over-eager type, perhaps give them a job so you can focus on the main event. They can help with deep breathing, keeping the ice chips flowing, or neck massages at strategic moments.
4. Pack a snack. Hungry spouses and partners can be weak-kneed spouses and partners. Snacks can help. They could be as simple as a few crackers or an energy bar.
5. Grab a seat. Encourage your partner to take breaks if necessary. A partner who may pass out can be a risk to themselves and other people in the room, including you. If they are feeling light-headed or sick, encourage them to sit down and take a breather. Let them worry about themselves so you don’t have to.
Reviewed by Dr. Jen Lincoln, April 2020
- Squeamish partners should educate themselves about labor and delivery and establish certain roles before delivery to minimize illness episodes.
- Open communication with the healthcare provider also helps to be prepared for all the things that may happen in delivery.
- Eating a snack, staying hydrated, and taking a seat when needed can help prevent fainting episodes.