Childbirth these days is very much a hands-on experience for dads. Gone are the days when the expectant father would sit in the visitor’s room waiting for it all to be over and done with.
Of course not all dads want to be totally hands on and nobody should be pushed into doing something they are uncomfortable with. But with a little preparation (forewarned is forearmed) dads can get so much more out of the whole experience and really feel they have played a major part in their child’s birth.
Reading childbirth books and websites is a good idea, but in a nutshell, these are the key facts any useful dad-to-be should know.
You should know your way to the hospital and maternity unit and how long it will take you.
You should take into account how heavy traffic might be at different times of the day. If you are making the journey during the rush hour or school run times it could take twice as long. Don’t cut things so fine that you end up delivering your baby on-route.
If you are planning to go by taxi, have several taxi company numbers to hand.
Real signs of labour include her waters breaking (this could be a trickle or a gush of fluid).
Labour usually starts within 12 hours of this happening although, unlike the movies, in the vast majority of cases, contractions start before the water breaks.
Persistent lower back pain is another sign of true labour, often accompanied by a cramp-like, premenstrual feeling.
True contractions occur at regular and increasingly shorter intervals and get longer and stronger.
Time her contractions from the beginning of one contraction to the beginning of the next.
When they are coming every 5 to 10 minutes and lasting about 45 to 60 seconds you should phone the number given by her doctor.
Hopefully her overnight bag and your baby’s bag are all ready packed.
When you leave for the hospital you need to take into account how long it will take you to get to the maternity unit. Generally, providing the is close by, once the contractions are 5 to 10 minutes apart, and last around 45 seconds, it's time to go.
If you take your partner to maternity unit too early and she has only just started to dilate, then unless you live in a remote area, or there’s a chance of heavy rainfall or curfew, it’s more than likely you’ll both be sent home.
So if the contractions start quite gently try to take her mind off them. Watch a movie, run her a warm bath, get something to eat or, better still, try to grab a few hours rest.
It’s frustrating and makes the whole labour process seem interminably long if you are hanging around at the hospital for too many hours in early labour stage.
Babies can be born as quickly as they are in the movies but very rarely. For most women, and especially first time mums, labour lasts between 12 and 16 hours.
Early labour (which can be comfortably dealt with at home) can take hours or even days.
First stage labour can still last around five or six hours and you should really aim to get her to the maternity unit now. The pushing phase can be scary to watch.
Seeing your wife huffing and puffing and making all this amazing effort can bring on mixed emotions in. A little ranting is quite normal.
Be prepared for your wife to get a little grumpy with you at this stage. Ok, possibly she may swear and blame you for putting her through this pain. A little ranting is quite normal.
Your very important job at this stage is to just 'be there' for her. Help her with her breathing if she wants you to. Rub her back or feet if she wants you to. Give her a drink if she wants you to.
In fact, just do anything she wants you to.
Although you will probably be standing there in open-mouthed awe and wonder, you do have other things to think about right now.
Had you planned to take photos? Film the arrival? Did you want to cut the cord? You may need to speak up if you do.
The beautiful birth of your baby is followed by the delivery of the not-so-beautiful placenta which can come immediately or up to 30 minutes later.
The new mum may feel cold during this phase or get a little shaky. You must keep an eye on her and be ready to offer a warm blanket and to hold your newborn while she's recovering.
Depending on the time of day or night your baby is born, the new mum may not get anything to eat for several hours. It’s difficult to predict exactly what she’ll feel like eating or drinking after the birth, but try to have a few options available. Tea and a biscuit are a popular choice.
If you don't want bedside photography following the birth of your baby, make sure to mention this to your doctor at the hospital.
For her remaining time in hospital, and once she is back home with baby, make sure your partner doesn’t try to do too much too soon.
Help her not only with your newborn baby, and in practical ways around the home, but by making sure visitors don’t outstay their welcome and by listening and responding to her needs.