By Anne Davis
In the ’50’s and 60’s it was very unusual for a father to be in the delivery room with his wife while she gave birth to their child. Fathers paced the waiting room anticipating that at any moment a white clad figure would emerge from behind closed doors to tell them they had become a parent. Social customs have dramatically changed and today Dad can be found right beside Mom during the entire experience. In fact, most women expect that their husband will be at their side as they undergo the painful, laborious process of delivering a child. However, Dad does have a choice.
To Be or Not To Be in the Delivery Room
Most women will want their husband to be with them during labor and delivery. After all, who knows her best? Who can tell what will give her the most comfort during this difficult time? Mom will also want to share in the joy and celebration of bringing this new life into the world.
Most fathers today choose to at least be their wife’s labor coach. This gives them a sense that they are contributing and have some control. But, a minority of fathers choose to stay out of the delivery room. Some feel uneasy dealing with pain or the sight of blood. They might also feel out of place or in the way.
If you are in doubt about being in the delivery room, the best way to determine if you want to be a part of this life changing moment is to educate yourself as much as you possibly can. Try to watch at least two birth videos. Talk openly with your wife about your feelings and your fears. Find out exactly what her expectations are and what she wants. Talk with at least 2, preferably 3, new dads about their experiences. Reach out to the men in your childbirth preparation class and discuss how you feel.
The Three Stages of Delivery
For mom, labor and delivery can take from six to twenty hours (sometimes even longer). It generally is divided into three stages: Labor, Pushing and Birth, and After Birth. The labor stage also has three stages consisting of early labor, active labor and transition.
- Stage 1 / Early Labor. Mom’s cervix is effacing and dilating. Her water may break. Help Mom decide when it is time to go to the hospital or birthing center.
- Stage 1 / Active Labor. The cervix continues to dilate to about 8 centimeters and Mom becomes increasingly uncomfortable.
- Stage 1 / Transition. Mom will be fully dilated and may have the urge to push. Sometimes this is when Mom says she can’t take the pain anymore and becomes scared. Dad’s job is to support and encourage.
- Stage 2 / Pushing & Birth. The baby moves through the birth canal and the doctor or midwife may perform an episiotomy. Mom may become more confident that she can complete her efforts. Dad needs to continue to encourage her and tell her she is doing great.
- Stage 3 / After Birth. The placenta will separate from the wall of Mom’s uterus and the doctor or midwife will repair the episiotomy. Dad will encourage Mom to relax and together they will begin to enjoy their new child.
If Dad is Mom’s labor coach there will be many other things he will do to relax her and support her during the birth process. Working together they will deliver a wonderful new life.
It’s Your Decision
No matter what your decision, your ultimate success as a father is not solely determined by whether or not you were in the room when your child was born. Being there for your child throughout their life is of much greater importance.
Resources for Expectant and New Dads
- American College of Nurse-Midwives
- American College of Obstetricians
- American Coalition for Fathers and Children
- At-Home Dad
- International Childbirth
- Center on Fathers, Families
and Public Policy
- Children’s Rights Council
- Families and Work Institute
- The Fatherhood Project
- Father’s Forum
- Fathers Online
- Institute for Responsible Fatherhood
and Family Revitalization
(This is the author of a great book, The Expectant Father.)
- Men’s Health Network
- National Center for Strategic Non-Profit Development and Community Leadership
- National Center on Fathers and Families
- The National Center for Fathering
- National Fatherhood Initiative
- National Fathers’ Network
- National Practitioners
Network for Fathers and Families