If you are pregnant, having a partner who can help you before, during, and after labor can be essential. For some families, that partner is your husband or wife, while for others it may be your mother, close friend, or other family member. Whoever it is, be sure they know some of these simple ways to help out during this exciting yet nerve-racking time.
Take a childbirth and/or breastfeeding class together—A good childbirth class will review the normal stages of pregnancy, labor, and childbirth so you don’t feel in the dark when the day comes! This class should help you know what labor looks like and when you should call the doctor or midwife. Many classes will also cover the basics of newborn care, while an additional breastfeeding class can be a great way to know what to expect if this is your partner’s first time breastfeeding. Don’t feel squeamish attending any of these classes—studies show that having a supportive partner is a huge key to breastfeeding success.
Prepare for the big day—Don’t wait until the last minute to pack your bag (this will only stress out your already-laboring partner!). Install your car seat or car seat base when the due date is near so you aren’t scrambling at the last minute. You get bonus points if you have it inspected ahead of time to make sure you did the job right! Try to avoid an empty tank of gas in case you get stuck in traffic, and know how to get to the hospital and where to park. Keep a copy of your partner’s insurance card in case she forgets her wallet.
Help her know when labor has started—This is where a childbirth class (or reading a reputable book) can come in handy. Help your partner time her contractions and keep her comfortable in the meantime by massaging her back or running a bath, depending on what she asks for. Offer water and high-protein snacks to keep her energy up.
Coordinate help at home—If it looks like this is the real thing, help out by making the necessary phone calls (however, do not be offended if a doctor or midwife who returns a call will only speak to the laboring mom–this is a privacy issue, not that they don’t want to talk to you!). If you have other children at home or pets who need to be cared for, start notifying the appropriate people. Do you need to leave out extra keys or instructions?
Be her advocate—It can be hard to keep a clear head in labor, so be sure to know your partner’s wishes and help express them if she feels unable. For example, is there a particular doctor she is hoping to avoid? If a plan is suggested, would it be helpful to ask the medical team to step out so you can talk privately? Are there certain friends or family members who should not be let in, even if they show up? These are all things to discuss ahead of time so that you can be most helpful when the time comes.
Be her cheerleader—Even if she has been pushing for two hours and it seems like this baby will never come and she is about to give up, cheer her on and tell her she is doing a great job. She needs you at this moment. If she ends up needing a C-section and is disappointed, now is not the time to tell her she just didn’t push hard enough. This is a vulnerable time and support is key.
Help out when baby comes—While you may be exhausted after the baby has arrived, please do not assume all night duties should fall to mom. Even if she is breastfeeding, you can help by changing diapers and making sure mom has a full water bottle and some snacks.
Keep an eye out for anxiety and depression in pregnancy and postpartum—Depression and anxiety in pregnancy are not uncommon, and neither is Postpartum depression/anxiety. Often the first people to notice it are those who live with the mother. If you are worried, talk to her about this and make an appointment to be seen by her doctor or midwife. This is not a sign that she is a bad mother but rather is a true medical condition, and it is important that she is evaluated and treated.
Reviewed by Dr. Jen Lincoln, April 2020
- Partners play a huge role in labor and with newborn care.
- Taking a childbirth class or reading a book is extremely helpful.
- Being an advocate and a cheerleader while your partner labors can help make the process less stressful.
- You need to be watchful for any signs or symptoms of postpartum depression.