Partner’s Presence During Labor: Safety and Benefits

Partner’s Presence During Labor: Safety and Benefits

Explore the safety and benefits of a partner's presence during labor, enhancing comfort and support for a positive birth experience.

Childbirth has long been a women’s thing, but more and more Western women want their partners to actively participate in labor. This is a great trend, says Sabia Wade, full spectrum doula and founder of Birthing Advocacy Doula Trainings.

However, not all partners are prepared for their role during the delivery process. Here are a few tips that can help them prepare.

1. Safety

The hospital can be a stressful environment. Using a doula and creating a peaceful environment is one way to make labor and delivery more manageable for your partner.

Several studies suggest that spouses who participate in childbirth have more positive perceptions of the birth process than those who do not. In addition, spouses who attend childbirth often have a role in decision-making which has a significant impact on women’s satisfaction with their delivery experience and outcomes.

Choosing someone who is supportive of your choices and can be there for you during a difficult time is important. The best thing to do is to talk with them in advance about their feelings about being present for the birth. You can even ask them to tell you what their own labors and deliveries were like, if they are willing. This can give you a better idea of what it will be like for them to be there, as well as how much they are able to support you in the moment. You may want to encourage them to take a doula training class with you, so they can help you prepare for the event.

2. Emotional Support

Many women report positive views of their partners’ participation in labor and childbirth. These partners often describe their birthing experience as a time of transformation into fatherhood and indicate higher levels of attachment when they are active participants in the process.

Several studies have found that continuous support is a critical factor for women’s well-being during childbirth. This support can be provided by the partner (six studies), a female family member with previous birth experience such as a mother or sister (nine studies), a doula or childbirth educator (eight studies), or hospital staff members (seven studies).

Men are often anxious about their role during labor and delivery, and this anxiety can affect how well they function in the labor room. It may be helpful for partners to attend a childbirth preparation class so they can be informed and familiar with the birth process. Some of these classes are offered online, and others can be found at local hospitals or obstetrics practices. Keeping the atmosphere in the labor room calm and comfortable is another way that partners can help during labor, as is ensuring their partner is hydrated by providing water, ice chips or clear soda.

3. Physical Support

In addition to emotional support, partners can provide physical assistance in several ways during labor. For example, a partner can help the birthing woman stay in a relaxed position, which allows for better oxygenation and enhances contractions. He can also take a hands-on role in massage and counter pressure, which are both effective pain relief techniques.

Men can prepare for this role by attending antenatal classes, learning about relaxation and labor positions and watching videos. They can also familiarize themselves with the hospital, making sure they know how to get there and where to park (and if there are shuttles).

Some studies suggest that continuous labor support improves outcomes and is associated with greater satisfaction. However, the research is limited because many women are not able to have continuous support from friends or family. For these reasons, it is important that future studies include more same-sex partnerships and explore a wide range of contexts. Continuous support may also be provided by outside caregivers, such as doulas. These providers can encourage partners, friends or family members to support the birthing woman in a way that will be most helpful to her.

4. Information

The medical environment can be very intense, especially when it comes to childbirth. Many men may feel intimidated by their role in the delivery room, and if they’re afraid of seeing blood or are uncomfortable with the physical side of labor, it is perfectly fine to ask someone else to be your primary support person.

It is important for partners to be fully informed about the birthing process. Research shows that spouses who are involved in their birth experience have more positive perceptions than those who are not present.

In addition to attending prenatal appointments and childbirth classes, many partners participate in the labor and delivery of their baby by assisting with back support and massage, encouraging words of encouragement and reassurance and being a supportive presence. Studies also show that a father’s presence during childbirth helps lower the risk for Cesarean. A study that randomizes first-time mothers to receive standard care from their obstetricians, or with the addition of a doula, shows that a father’s presence reduces the need for a C-section by almost half.

5. Advocacy

Women are often in a “zone” during labor and may become uninterested or even irritable toward their partners. As her partner, it’s important to be flexible in your support role and not take things personally, Dr. Guarnotta notes.

For example, if your partner is in the active phase of her labor (when contractions are getting more intense and occur about three to five minutes apart), you can help her stay focused on breathing exercises or other relaxation techniques. You can also help her communicate with her healthcare provider or midwife about her wishes, including how she would like to manage pain and medical interventions.

Studies show that spousal presence during childbirth is beneficial to both the birthing woman and her partner, and that it might reduce medical interventions and labor times. As a result, many healthcare providers now encourage birthing partners to be present for the entire labor and delivery experience. To get prepared for their role, partners can start by attending a childbirth class together. These classes provide valuable, unbiased information and are associated with better outcomes for mothers and their babies.


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