Daddies in the Birthing Room and as Labor Support

It does a man good to see his lady being brave while she has their baby… it inspires him. – Ina May Gaskin CPM (midwife)

Some of my most memorable moments as a childbirth educator and doula has been watching men transform into fathers and realize that they have an important part to play in the pregnancy and birth of their baby.  Most men I’ve met would like to be included in the birth planning, the learning, and the birth.  I’ve heard frustration in the voices of men who felt like there was nothing for them to do despite the fact that they wanted to be useful in the process, and intuitively they knew that they were needed – they just weren’t sure how.

It is so easy for everyone in the labor and birthing room (even the laboring mother), aside from those who work there on a day to day basis, to feel like they should just stay out of the way and let the professionals do their work.  Sometimes, those who choose homebirth can even feel that way.  Let the nurse, nurse’s assistant, doula, midwife, OB, take care of it.  I’m liable to just screw things up.  The truth is the most crucial roles in the labor and birthing room are filled by the laboring mother and those she chooses to attend to her needs whether it is her husband/partner, family, friend, or doula.  Those people will be with the mother longer during labor and birth than any of the medical team.  Not only are the mother’s labor support team with her longer, but they are a huge part of creating an environment around the mother that can help her remain calm, relaxed, and focused on her labor.

And baby makes 4

In this picture you see our first family photo after my second daughter was born.  We are all tired.  The birth was around 30 hours total from beginning to end.  My husband was by my side the entire time.  He never once left me.  I also had a doula and midwife to attend to my needs.  So, in a situation where there is a doula, midwife, nurses, or OB, what is the father’s/significant other’s role?

His earliest role in the birth process was to ensure survival – to protect the family from wild animals, or perhaps other tribes.  As birth has become more industrialized, his role appears to have altered.  But could it be that by entering the birthing room, the father is returning to his initial, primal, role of protecting his loved ones? – Patrick M. Houser “Protecting the Cave” Pathways to Family Wellness Issue 24 Winter 2009

I believe Mr. Houser is on to something.  In my experience, this is the role that most fathers/husbands/significant others want to take in the birth experience.  They want to ensure that everything stays safe, and goes well for the mother and their baby.  They want to understand what is happening in the woman’s body during labor.  They want to know what sorts of complications they might face in order to be mentally prepared.  They want to be a part of making a birth plan, and most don’t mind a bit to be the one to talk about the mother’s wishes to the medical staff if that is needed.  They like to know simple and often hands on ways of helping the mother deal with any discomfort she might feel.  They want to take on that role.  Fathers/husbands/significant others should have room to participate in whatever capacity they and the mother sees fit.

Daddies and Doulas

Kelli was an amazing help to me.  She was able to give (mama) instructions without me getting yelled at for them.  I would definitely recommend her to any soon to be fathers.  It will help keep you out of the dog house.  Plus, it gives you someone with a wealth of knowledge for advice and help. – brand new father from Perry Co., Kentucky

This is a quote from the husband of one of my doula clients.  I am sharing it here because it also shows that doulas do not take the place of the father in the birthing room.  Doulas are there for fathers as well.

I have found that some fathers like my presence to assure them that the way they are massaging the mother is correct, or to give them ideas of ways to help her move.  I’m there to relieve them when their arms get tired, or I am the one to do a lot of the physical support while they hold the mother’s hand, gently stroke her hair, or whisper sweetness in her ear.  I most often work as a team with the father or other labor support.  I also provide them with informational support if something should come up that they aren’t familiar with, or if they aren’t sure what kinds of questions they should ask about certain procedures.  For some mothers, as the father mentioned above, they find it easier to listen to the voice of a doula or other experienced woman while in labor, while the father is there to receive instruction from mom, or to guide her with kind looks and a firm touch.

Doulas do a whole lot to enhance the labor experience for both the mother and the father/husband/significant other.

Daddies and Childbirth Education

A quality childbirth education class will offer information geared toward both the expecting mother and her labor support person.  Fathers and any other labor support people should come away from a childbirth class feeling more equipped to be helpful during labor and birth.  In fact, taking a childbirth class together is a great way to get some good couple time in before the baby is born.  It is something you can enjoy together.

Begin by watching this short video, and take your exploration from there!

A great book to look at together would be The Birth Partner by Penny Simkin.

For more information on classes offered by myself through Birth True Childbirth Education (including online options for those who have busy schedules or no complete childbirth education near you) visit the Birth True website.  Or, you can email me at

Many happy days to you and yours,



About Kelli

I am Kelli B. Haywood, LCCE, a childbirth educator certified through Lamaze, a birth doula, and prenatal yoga instructor. My two little girls light my life. I am the wife of artist, musician, and teacher - John Haywood.
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2 Responses to Daddies in the Birthing Room and as Labor Support

  1. Tori Cooper says:

    As a doula, what do you do when you find a husband being more disruptive/draining than supportive/energizing to a mother in labor?

  2. Kelli says:

    Ideally, these sorts of tendencies could be picked up on when meeting with your clients prenatally, and you might could begin to work with whatever is the underlying reasons of those behaviors or refer them to someone who has the skills to work through those with them. However, that isn’t always possible. If you are working with clients in the midst of labor, it is fine to suggest that dad take a walk, get some air, go get a bite to eat. Also, giving the husband a distinct job to do might help, like heating the rice sock, or wetting a washcloth for his wife’s face. If it isn’t close to the birth and mom needs a breather from dad, suggest he go and see that the carseat is properly installed. You can also have him help to support mom in upright positions like the dangled squat. But, if dad’s behavior is rude, mean, or otherwise cruel (something outside of the normal anxiety, fear, or worried reactions/behaviors), it might be a situation where you should alert the nursing staff and have them make suggestions or help you create a safe space for this mama.

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