Thursday, November 22, 2012

10 labour tips for dads

One of the best things about being a writer is seeing your work in print. A few weekends ago I sat down for toast and tea on Sunday morning and opened up The Sunday Telegraph's Body + Soul liftout to see my words in a half-page feature. To me the article represented a blend of two careers - freelance writing and pre-natal yoga teaching. 

Over the years I've taught hundreds of pregnant women and have thoroughly enjoyed meeting their birth support partners - dads-to-be, mums-to-be, grandmas, sisters, aunties, best-friends. The role of the support person in labour is so very important, perhaps even essential to a positive birth experience. Put simply, a labouring woman is at her most vulnerable; she needs to be supported by someone she loves and trusts - a confident, prepared partner.

Over countless classes I have seen dads-to-be transform within a few hours - from the fearful man to the "I'm going to catch my baby!" father. I teach birth workshops from a real and very honest perspective; I share simple and practical techniques. And it works. 

It was such an honour to share my knowledge (and the wisdom of others) in a newspaper that reaches such a broad demographic. A few of you requested I publish it below you will find the original version. Enjoy!

Labour Tips For Dads

Supporting a pregnant woman as she labours is a privilege but it can also be a confronting and emotional experience. Pre-natal yoga teacher Jodi Wilson offers a step-by-step guide to labour and suggests practical techniques to assist in the journey towards birth.........

1. The Estimated Due Date

Due dates are an estimate at best. Being 'overdue' can be a highly emotional experience. Most women will start to internalise in preparation for labour; stay home in their 'nest' and seek comfort and quiet.

Be mindful that anxiety and stress will not induce labour but gentle encouragement, humour, sex, acupuncture, a brisk walk and a good cry may.

2. Early labour

Adequate and continual support during labour can significantly reduce the need for medical intervention and that support begins with the very first contraction. Early labour can last for hours or sometimes days.

"Resting is essential in early labour to ensure she conserves the energy required for active labour. Be gentle with her, keep her calm and offer her water between contractions." - Lauren Horton, Doula at Singingbird Birth Support.

3. Fear of the Unknown

First time mums fear the unknown and second-time mums fear the known. As labour progresses it's easy to become overwhelmed by the hours and challenges that lay ahead. 

"The best way for her to stay present is to focus on her breath. Encourage her to mentally repeat 'let' as she inhales and 'go' as she exhales," - Mardi Bell, Director of Yogaways.

4. Active Labour

During active labour, when contractions come regularly every two to three minutes and last for 60-90 seconds, movement is encouraged - swaying, squatting or walking. Some women like firm massage on the arms, back and thighs.

When it comes to massage don't be concerned with fancy technique - but keep in mind that you may be doing it for hours at a time. If she doesn't want to be touched, stay close and offer encouragement.

5.  The Mental Challenge

Remaining positive is incredibly difficult, especially if labour is long. If she begins to doubt herself and her ability, acknowledge that the job of labour id hard and suggest a different position, a shower or a bath - water can bring welcome relief.

When you notice that she is losing confidence look her in the eye and say: "You CAN and you ARE doing it."

6. Surrender

We control so much in our lives and yet no-one can control the birth journey. The essence of birth is surrender - letting go of expectations, relinquishing control and literally going with the flow.

"My partner Terry wholeheartedly believed in me and my body's ability to birth. His support encouraged me to surrender and let my body labour - because it was going to do it anyway." - Lena Tarasenko, mum to Harper and Sonny.

7. The Sound of Birth

Forget the Hollywood scream, labour sounds deep and primal and can be described as a roar or a moan. Sound is one of the most powerful techniques a labouring woman can use - it lengthens the exhalations and soothes the nervous system. 

If she is feeling self-conscious about making sound go ahead and join her. There is a neuro-muscular connection between the mouth and the cervix, the throat and the birth canal - if she keeps her mouth open and soft her cervix and birth canal will do the same.

8. Intervention

Regardless of preparation there are some circumstances where intervention is necessary and accepting it can be challenging. However, intervention can sometimes assist towards achieving a natural birth.

"We hoped for a drug-free labour but when we realised that Kesh was regressing we accepted our midwife's recommendations for an epidural. We very quickly learnt the importance of surrendering to the birth journey. Roo was born eight hours later and I exploded with joy, relief, ecstasy and love," - Tim Coulson, proud new dad.

9. Transition

Transition is when the cervix is nearing full dilation and the contractions are very close together. Often women experiencing transition will display a range of emotions - despair, sadness, confusion, fear and anger - often directed towards you. Never take it personally.

"Stay with her even if she tells you to leave. Use loving words, remind her that she will be holding her baby soon. Breathe with her, embrace her." - Lisa Richards, Independent Midwife at Bella Birthing.

10. Birth

When she feels the urge to push she has reached second stage. Baby is ready to descend into the birth canal and pushing commences with the next contraction. If all is going well you may, depending on her position, have the opportunity to catch your baby.

"If you are interested in catching your baby it should be discussed with your partner and her caregiver during pregnancy. At the time of birth listen to her needs and acknowledge her requests as they can change at any time."  - Lisa Richards.


  1. great read indeed. I have 13weeks to go with #2, I hear ya on "First time mums fear the unknown and second-time mums fear the known" Im stuggling this time and trying to do as much reading as i can on tips and tricks to help me thru, So thankyou.

  2. All such good tips!

    I did Hypnobirthing and as it teaches you to go inside of yourself and since I am an independent person to begin with I was really worried that I wouldn't want Daddy R near me when I was labouring.
    It was a silly thing to worry about as on the Daddy R was perfect...he was supportive and encouraging and I could not have done it without him!

  3. Ahh i love it when you post about labour and birth.

    Also, as a fellow freelancing mama writer i know that buzz and I applaud your success! Yeehah!

  4. Even though I will not be by anybody who will be giving birth soon, or myself, for that matter, this was an interesting and great read. Also, congratulations!

  5. perfect timing.

    your printed words look so lovely next to your morning toast.


    1. thinking of you! Blessings for a safe and joyous birth ((((((om)))))) x

  6. This is so beautiful Jodi! Perfect advice. I was thinking of my second birth as I read this and smiling - so much love, calm, patience and support in the room. So very different to my first experience x

  7. Just finished watching One Born Every Minute (bawling) and then came here to find this post...(cluck, cluck, cluck)...Love thinking back to Saskia's birth - I felt so empowered, and so supported. I'm sure there will be many dads (and mums) who will benefit enormously from reading your words. Congratulations x
    ps. You know, despite a pretty ideal first birth, I am a little fearful of the known now - it's so true! Let. Go. Let. Go....

    1. it was a good episode wasn't it. I have lots of midwives come to my classes, particularly for their first pregnancy. Understandably they have a lot to let go of. Second time around will absolutely fine...there's a lot of comfort knowing that your body knows what to do. x

  8. Great post Jodi. I'm a big advocate for natural birthing. Letting go, no expectations. I had both my boys by water birth it was the best decision I made - such an empowering feeling that we as women have a choice how we want to birth be it natural or otherwise.

  9. Congrats Jodi on a great piece and getting it published in a 'mainstream' publication. In my experience as a writer with values that are easily relegated to the 'alternative' fringe it is not always easy to convince editors of such publications to publish pieces like the one you have written and for them to remain true to the message you want to get across. So this is a win! For my first son's birth my husband informed me when I was six weeks pregnant that he wouldn't be at the birth, yes I was shocked to put it mildly. He felt very strongly that birth is women's business, no he wasn't chickening out as some people were quick to assume, he was being totally honest about his beliefs and felt that there is an expectation placed on men to be at birth even if they didn't really want to or didn't think they could handle it. After I got over the shock, I rallied my sistas (my sister-in-law who homebirthed her four children in water including twins, and two of my girlfriends) and I had a wonderful birth experience with Pete nearby coming in and out of the room at the birth centre while I laboured but not there for the actual arrival of our son River, Pete came in moments later. All perfect for us. Ironically our second son arrived within two hours and Pete and my girlfriend delivered him in my girlfriend's bathroom!! He called that one a bush emergency :) Blessings to all the pregnant mamas x

  10. What a wonderful article Jodi! Rick was my rock and support in our last four births... I could not have done any of them without him. Especially with Cameron, knowing that he had died, I went on autopilot and simply followed Rick's lead. He totally got me through it.

    (I love Juju Sundin's book and seriously think that banging two stress balls together can get any woman through labour!)

    Ronnie xo

  11. A really beautiful article Jodi! I know that my husband was my rock at such a vulnerable time and I felt panic beyond my control at certain points but with the help of him and the Doula I was able to have the natural birth I so wanted :)

    Ellen xx

  12. Congratulations Jodi, I am new to your blog but it is fast becoming one of my favs

    My Aleks, definitely needed this before our first baby he was terrified and kept telling me he may faint which made me even more nervous but then when the moment arrived he was perfection.

  13. If only I had this 12 months ago to give to my partner. Congratulations on an excellent article.

  14. I'm saving this for husband to read when he gets home x

  15. I will make my partner read this for next time!

    I am giving away a month planner, meal planner and shopping list pad and pencil for the fridge if you want to check it out

  16. I will be sending this to my mate who is about to become a first time dad.

    My husband may well add 'be prepared to be scared' after our rather exciting surprise breech baby gave us 24 hours that he won't forget (I have forgotten quite a lot of it). We were so lucky to be prepared by a great midwife who made sure the boys knew just how to help.

    Next we need the article on how Dads can soothe a screaming 3 month old thanks Jodi!

    1. In my workshops I do talk about being confronted and scared....but I don't think you can ever adequately explain the intensity of those emotions. Hope your friend enjoys the article x

  17. These tips are going to be a helpful keepsake to look back on when I'm expecting number 2 : )

  18. This was nice. A really nice lovely, and calming read.

  19. Isn't it strange that I've been published for years, but I get weirded out when I see my own byline? I almost cringe a little... maybe I think if my name is not attached, then if people don't like it they won't know it was me? Odd.


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