Provide Good Labor Support with 5 Easy Tips

When learning how to be a good labor support person, it can be overwhelming for a partner — How will I remember everything, How will I know what to do, How can I help her? It’s true that there is a lot of information to know when it comes to labor and birth. But you can rest easy knowing that providing good labor support can be as easy as remembering this acronym: DEPPS. Drink, Eat, Pee, Position, Support/Soothe. Birth partners, when mom is in labor, you officially take on the role of DEPPS Manager. Good labor support can be boiled down into five easy tips:

Drink – Staying hydrated in labor is so important. Encourage mom to drink water after every contraction so she can stay hydrated throughout labor without the use of IV fluids.

Eat – No one would run a marathon without refueling, and the same is true in birth (which is generally much longer than the average marathon!). Keep track of the last time she had something other than water. If it has been longer than 2-3 hours,  offer and encourage mom to eat something, even if it’s light (honey sticks, juice, apple sauce, nuts, granola). Be sure to pack your labor bag with a range of nutrition options. And yes, it IS safe to eat during labor!

Pee – Seems silly that a person would have to be reminded to pee, but a mom in labor has other things on her mind! Emptying her bladder once an hour can help labor progress — an empty bladder makes more room for baby to come down.

Position – Changing positions frequently in labor (about once an hour) helps labor progress and allows mom to continue to find comfort in different ways. For resources on different positions to use in labor, check out this resource from Lamaze, or this guide from Penny Simkin.

Support/Soothe – This one is HUGE. Providing continuous support to a laboring woman is the key to a better birth experience. This can be done in a variety of ways, but usually includes hands-on soothing through touch and massage, and verbal encouragement (you’re doing great, you’re so strong, you’re almost there). You can learn and practice the most effective ways to support a laboring woman by taking a quality childbirth class.

Surround Yourself with a Caring Birth Team

The following article and more can also be found on the Lamaze website for parents, Lamaze.org

 

By Barabra A. Hotteling, MSN, WHNP, LCCE, CD(DONA)

Giving birth will be one of the most memorable events of your life. It may be hard to imagine how you will respond to the powerful physical and emotional aspects of labor. But no matter how you feel, it is bound to be easier if you are surrounded by a team of people you trust before, during and after the birth.

A Doula’s Role

The word doula means “woman care-giver” in Greek; its origin refers to the female who attended to the lady of the house during childbirth. Historically, doulas were aunts, sisters, cousins or friends who helped cook and clean, as well as offered support. Today’s doulas perform similar services. There are thousands of professionally traineddoulas in North America and around the world, available to any woman who wants continuous non-medical support at childbirth. Studies show that the presence of a doula at a birth results in shorter labors with fewer complications and fewer interventions, such as Pitocin, forceps or cesarean. Research shows that women supported by doulas request pain medication less frequently; they also report greater satisfaction with the birth and their partner’s participation.

Doulas provide a variety of services, depending on your personal preferences. Even though you probably won’t need to meet with your doula until your third trimester, it’s best to start interviewing prospective ones early, to make sure your first choice can accommodate you. Once labor begins, doulas can help in many ways, including reminding you to listen to your inner wisdom. Having someone by your side to answer questions and let you know that you are doing well can empower you to see the light at the end of the tunnel. A doula can help you advocate for your preferences to other members of your support team, allowing you to relax and focus so childbirth is ultimately more satisfying.

A Partner’s Compassion

While a doula can provide incredible support, your partner is still your most vital source of emotional comfort. He or she knows the subtle signals that express your needs, as well as your preferences for touch, music, scents and tastes. Most important, your partner is likely to be the lighthouse you focus on during contractions. He or she may choose to participate in your birth in a variety of ways, but that love and presence cannot be replaced by anyone else. Talk to your partner now about his or her role, what you think you’ll need during this time and who can best help you get it.

The Rest of the Team

If you are giving birth at home or in a birth center, your midwife will pay attention to the physical condition of you and your baby and guide you through labor and birth. In a hospital, doctors and nurses will evaluate your progress and attend to your physical needs, but because they have other patients, they usually are unable to provide the continuous support that leads to the best birth experience. Consider inviting family or friends who can stay with you throughout labor and birth. Show them your birth plan and encourage them to go to childbirth classes with you or take a tour of the birth center or hospital if you are not giving birth at home. Often, women do not want anyone other than their partner present at birth; others feel more comfortable with greater support. As you learn more, choose the birth team that helps you feel most empowered and confident on the big day.

60 Tips for Healthy Birth: Part 3 – Bring a Loved One, Friend or Doula for Continuous Support

In this six-part series, we are sharing 10 tips for each of the Lamaze six Healthy Birth Practices that help guide women toward a safe and healthy birth. The Lamaze Healthy Birth Practices are supported by research studies that examine the benefits and risks of maternity care practices. Learn more about each practice, including short, informative videos at Lamaze.com. To read the rest of the 60 tips, check out the other posts in this series.

 

10 Ways to Have the Best Continuous Support During Labor and Birth

1. Learn why bringing a loved one, friend, or doula for continuous support is important for you and your baby.

2. Encourage your designated labor support person(s) to read The Birth Partner by Penny Simkin.

3. Curious about professional labor support? Find out why a doula can be a wonderful asset to your support team.

4. Learn about the many ways you can find comfort in labor by taking a good childbirth class.

5. Choose a care provider and place of birth that encourages bringing a doula to your birth.

6. Create a birth plan/preferences sheet and share it with your birth support person to make sure that she knows your wishes.

7. Spend time connecting with your birth support person prior to going into labor — get to know each other (if you don’t already), share your feelings about the upcoming birth, and talk about what you envision as the best labor support.

8. Pack a hospital or birth center bag with items you imagine will be useful to the person who supports you during labor — nourishment, scents, favorite lotion, focal point, etc.

9. Be sure that your support team — all of the members present with you during labor and those actively supporting you — are people you actually want by your side. You only get to birth this baby once!

10. If your spouse, family member, or friend is the one who will be your labor support person, be sure they know it is not their job to “save” you from the hard work of labor, but rather to support and comfort throughout your labor, as best as they possibly can.

 

Nine Easy Guidelines for Birth Partners

Our society forgets, sometimes, that partners also have a unique experience when a new baby comes into the world. The following tips give gentle guidance for birth partners, helping boost confidence and clear up uncertainties.

  1. Support is a key element to a woman having a positive birth and postpartum experience. As a birth partner, identify the resources you have for informational, emotional and physical backup early on.
  2. As you learn more about the process of birth, you will discover your strengths in offering support, and you can decide how you want to contribute to the birth of this child. Will you be the primary support, work more with the other team members or be by the mother’s side with your full love and support while others do the hands-on work? A birth partner can serve in any manner that helps the laboring woman, so be comfortable, even joyful, in whatever role you both agree upon.
  3. Whether you decide to actively work with the mother or just shower her with love, simply being present makes a difference. The birth partner is usually the one member of the team who best knows her desires and can interpret her cues and express her wishes to others. Your personal history with the laboring woman is something the rest of the team doesn’t have.
  4. In order to care for a mother in labor, you must also care for yourself. Eating and drinking during labor will give you the energy you need. Wear comfortable clothes and let the doula or nurse care for your partner while you take an occasional break.
  5. Ask questions. Unless you are birthing at home, you are in an unfamiliar setting surrounded by unfamiliar people. A doula can help you get the attention of the health-care provider so that you are heard.
  6. Be prepared to experience some strong emotions. Often, a birth partner is so absorbed in supporting the mother and remaining strong that he or she is surprised by the powerful feelings of love and awe that accompany seeing this incredible woman go through birth.
  7. You and the mother may have the most familiar voices to the infant. When you talk to the baby, he experiences a feeling of calmness that has a positive effect on his transition to the outside world. Stroking him and skin-to-skin contact will also reduce stress hormones and improve his breathing and temperature regulation.
  8. The postpartum period is a mix of joyous and difficult moments. The unpredictability of each day and getting to know your baby can sometimes make for a challenging situation.
  9. After the excitement of birth dies down a bit, enjoy quiet time with the mother and baby, and delight in the miracle of birth and the part you played.

For more detailed information on the birth partner’s role, we recommend reading The Birth Partner, by Penny Simkin, PT.

Lamaze Care Practices: What They Are & How They Can Help

Common sense tells us and research confirms that the Six Lamaze Healthy Birth Practices featured in these video clips and print materials are tried-and-true ways to make birth as safe and healthy as possible. But don’t take our word for it — click through to watch each of the short clips to learn more about safe & healthy birth and how best to achieve it, no matter where you give birth.

Introduction: Safe and Healthy Birth Practice - Download PDF

#1: Let Labor Begin on Its Own - Download PDF

#2: Walk, Move & Change Positions - Download PDF

#3: Have Continuous Support - Download PDF

#4: Avoid Unnecessary Interventions - Download PDF

#5: Get Upright & Follow Urges to Push - Download PDF

#6: Keep Your Baby With You - Download PDF

Download the complete booklet here.

Lamaze International partnered with InJoy Productions and their new Mother’s Advocate program to provide you with this free, evidence-based educational material.

8 Essential Tips for Birth Partners

  1. Support is a key element to a woman having a positive birth and postpartum experience. As a birth partner, identify the resources you have for informational, emotional and physical backup early on.
  2. As you learn more about the process of birth, you will discover your strengths in offering support, and you can decide how you want to contribute to the birth of this child. Will you be the primary support, work more with the other team members or be by the mother’s side with your full love and support while others do the hands-on work? A birth partner can serve in any manner that helps the laboring woman, so be comfortable, even joyful, in whatever role you both agree upon.
  3. Whether you decide to actively work with the mother or just shower her with love, simply being present makes a difference. The birth partner is usually the one member of the team who best knows her desires and can interpret her cues and express her wishes to others. Your personal history with the laboring woman is something the rest of the team doesn’t have.
  4. In order to care for a mother in labor, you must also care for yourself. Eating and drinking during labor will give you the energy you need. Wear comfortable clothes and let the doula or nurse care for your partner while you take an occasional break.
  5. Ask questions. Unless you are birthing at home, you are in an unfamiliar setting surrounded by unfamiliar people. A doula can help you get the attention of the health-care provider so that you are heard.
  6. Be prepared to experience some strong emotions. Often, a birth partner is so absorbed in supporting the mother and remaining strong that he or she is surprised by the powerful feelings of love and awe that accompany seeing this incredible woman go through birth.
  7. You and the mother may have the most familiar voices to the infant. When you talk to the baby, he experiences a feeling of calmness that has a positive effect on his transition to the outside world. Stroking him will also reduce stress hormones and improve his breathing and temperature regulation.
  8. The postpartum period is a mix of joyous and difficult moments. The unpredictability of each day and getting to know your baby can sometimes make for a challenging situation.
  9. After the excitement of birth dies down a bit, enjoy quiet time with the mother and baby, and delight in the miracle of birth and the part you played.

Tips for Finding a Doula

This and many more valuable articles and resources can be found on Lamaze.org, the Lamaze site dedicated to families.

 

History, common wisdom, and research tell us that women who have continuous support in labor have a higher chance of giving birth vaginally, use less pain medication in labor, and are more likely to remember their births as positive experiences. These tips will help you build the right team to support you in labor so that you can have a satisfying birth.

Doulas: Professional Labor Support

Research says that having a doula (a trained labor support professional) as part of your labor support team provides the most benefits. But how do you find someone who is a good fit to be part of your labor support team? Here are some tips:

  1. If you have a friend who has used a doula, ask her to share her story and have her introduce you to her doula. Keep in mind that each woman and her birth are unique. While this doula may have been perfect for your friend, you must decide if this doula is a good match for you.
  2. Ask your midwife or doctor for recommendations. Some hospitals and birth centers provide doula services or referrals. Some providers regularly work with doulas. But remember that a doula works for you, not for your doctor or midwife. If you don’t click with the person your provider recommends, keep searching.
  3. Ask your childbirth educator for a referral. They have heard many birth stories and may know the local doulas who have helped other women, or may work as a doula too. By spending time together in your classes, you’ll get to know each other before your birth.
  4. Contact your local Birth Network if available, or attend a La Leche League meeting or a local moms group. You’ll meet women who have used doulas at their births and may meet doulas there, too.
  5. Check the Web sites of the organizations that certify and train doulas, such as DONA International. Most of these sites will let you search by location for a doula near you.
  6. Interview several doulas if possible before choosing one. When getting ready for your interview, think about what you want your doula to do for you. How will she fit in with the rest of your labor support team? Think about the ways you deal with challenges and how you like to be treated when you need support. What helps you to relax? Do you like lots of massage or do you prefer the distraction of a conversation? How does your partner want to support you? Does he or she want to participate in the physical support or just to be there emotionally for you? Ask the doula how she sees her role at your birth.
  7. If your insurance doesn’t cover doulas and you can’t afford the doula’s fees, look for a doula-in-training. She may not have as much experience with birth as someone who is certified, but she may attend your birth for little or no fee in order to earn her certification. Some communities have volunteer doula services for women in need. Some doulas will write a contract for women to pay over time or even trade for another service that you can offer to her.

Just as you have an inner wisdom that guides you in birth, you have this same intuitive knowledge that will tell you which doula should be with you when you give birth. Trust yourself!

Friends and Family: Another Source of Support

You may already have a “doula” among your family and friends. A doula is a woman experienced in birth who provides continuous emotional and physical support. Finding someone within your own circle of friends and family is often special because she already knows you and will continue to be a part your family’s life. Here are some tips for building a support team from within your friends and family.

  1. Remember that women have helped each other in birth and afterward for thousands of years – long before there were organizations with training and certification programs. Family members and friends can be wonderful doulas. But, be sure to choose someone who shares your philosophy of birth, makes you feel confident and safe, and will follow your wishes at your birth.
  2. Don’t assume that a friend or family member with medical experience will offer the best labor support. Studies have shown that continuous support from people without medical training may actually provide more benefits than support from people who are nurses or doctors.
  3. Involve your labor support companion in your birth planning. Invite her to a prenatal appointment and your childbirth classes. Take a tour together of the place you will give birth. Do a “labor rehearsal” where you practice comfort measures. If you write a birth plan, share it with your labor support companions and make sure they have a chance to talk about it with you and ask questions.
  4. If there are several people providing you support (such as your husband or partner and a family member or friend) make sure that the members of your “team” communicate well with each other and that each person is clear about what his or her role will be. Building team communication will ensure that everyone – including you – can stay focused on your labor, instead of worrying about how to work together.
  5. Share your favorite books or Web sites about birth with your labor support team. Suggest some books that are especially for people who will support laboring women, such as “The Birth Partner,” “The Doula Book,” or “The Labor Progress Handbook.”

Web Resources:

Books for Labor Support Companions:

  • The Official Lamaze Guide: Giving Birth with Confidence (2010) by Judith Lothian & Charlotte DeVries
  • The Birth Partner, Second Edition (2001) by Penny Simkin
  • The Doula Book: How a Trained Labor Companion Can Help You Have a Shorter, Easier, and Healthier Birth (2002) by Marshall H. Klaus, John H. Kennell, & Phyllis H. Klaus
  • The Labor Progress Handbook (2005) by Penny Simkin & Ruth S. Ancheta

By Invitation Only: Who Will Attend Your Birth?

Some women envision their birth-day as a time to invite anyone who is close and dear to them into the birthing room—mother, sisters, partner/husband, children, in-laws, next-door neighbor—and yet other moms feel most comfortable with only their husband/partner in the room. Ultimately, there is no one right way, but rather, the way that is best for you.

Choosing who may attend your birth can be a challenging task for moms who receive pressure from friends and family. This is a time when you have permission to be selfish! While your mother may assume that she has a front row seat during your birth, you may not feel comfortable birthing in the same room with a woman who has a long history of nagging and criticizing.

When considering who to allow in your birthing room, explore your relationship with the person. Ask yourself some questions:

  • How do I feel about this person?
  • How does this person feel about my birth preferences?
  • How did this person respond the last time I needed their support?
  • Write down five words that describe this person. How do those words make you feel?

Continuous support (emotional and physical) during labor and birth has been shown to result in healthier birth outcomes and a more positive birth experience.

What does positive support look and sound like? First and foremost, the person(s) supporting you during labor and birth must be familiar with and comfortable with your birth preferences. A good support person will offer words of encouragement and compassion, and refrain from passing judgment. “Just get the epidural, honey—there’s no need to put yourself through this kind of pain,” or “I birthed all three of my kids naturally; there’s no reason you can’t too,” are not the kinds of feedback and support you need anytime, and especially not during your birth.

What if you just can’t say no?
Sometimes, even if we know better than to allow our aunt/grandma/mother-in-law in the birthing room, we do it anyway. If this is your situation, plan for additional support. Appoint at least one other trustworthy person to be your primary support during labor and birth. Ideally, this person is very familiar with your birth preferences and will be your advocate and spokesperson—including speaking up to your sister/mother/aunt who insists that you ask your doctor to break your water, because that’s what she did in her births.

You also may consider hiring a professional labor support person, called a doula. Doulas are trained professionals skilled in providing physical, emotional and psychological support to a woman during birth. A doula does not replace your partner/husband’s role during birth, but rather supplements their support. Doula fees average $600, but can be as low as $250 in some places. You also may be able to contract free or significantly reduced fee doula services from a doula in training. Often, doulas will accept payment in installments and certain company flex-spending accounts can be used to cover doula fees.

 Final Words
Having the right support person during your birth is a critical component of your birth experience, and in some cases, it can mean the difference between a good birth experience and a traumatic one. As with any life goal or achievement, putting measures in place for success provides room for success to happen.

 

Who was part of your support team on your birth day? Were you happy with your decision or do you wish you would have chosen differently?

Jessica Simpson Is Right About Birth but Wrong About Lamaze

A very pregnant Jessica Simpson appeared on Monday night’s The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. During her interview, Jessica covered the basic details of her pregnancy, including the surprise of Braxton Hicks contractions, and her relationship with dad-to-be. She also answered questions on her preparation for birth. When asked whether she would be attending a Lamaze class, Simpson replied no — that women in Lamaze classes “get so out of breath.”

While Simpson was likely playing up her signature ditsy humor, she touched on a commonly misunderstood element of Lamaze: breathing. Simpson remarked that women need energy to push and that being “breathless” or “seeing stars” would not be helpful. She’s right — hyperventilating and breathing without focus can be counterproductive to labor and pushing. It depletes a woman’s energy and can raise her adrenaline level, causing exhaustion and anxiety.

Today’s Lamaze classes focus on all elements that make up a healthy, safe birth. Breathing is just one the many suggestions offered to provide focus and increase comfort during labor and birth. The following, excerpted from The Official Lamaze Guide: Giving Birth with Confidence by Judith A. Lothian and Charlotte DeVries, provides an overview of breathing during labor and birth:

Conscious Breathing
Conscious breathing (especially slow breathing) reduces heart rate, anxiety, and pain perception. It works in part because when breathing becomes a focus, other sensations (such as labor pain) move to the edge of your awareness.

Conscious breathing is an especially useful labor tool because it not only keeps you and your baby well oxygenated, it’s also easy to learn and use. It’s naturally rhythmic and easy to incorporate into a ritual. And best of all, breathing is the one coping strategy that can’t be taken away from you—even if you’re stuck in bed attached to an electronic fetal monitor and intravenous fluids.

Conscious (or patterned) breathing used to be the hallmark of Lamaze childbirth education. For many women, it’s still an important way to stay relaxed and stay on top of their contractions. It’s true that conscious breathing can help you relax and feel less pain during contractions.  There’s no “right” way to breathe in labor, despite what others may tell you. Slow, deep breathing helps most women manage the pain of contractions. But the right way for you to breathe is whatever feels right to you. Issues like your number of breaths per minute, breathing through your nose or your mouth, or making sounds (like hee-hee) with your breaths are only important if they make a difference for you.

That last part — “….are only important if they make a difference for you” — is so key. Quality birth preparation, like Lamaze classes, should provide you with several tools in your tool box to be able to choose the best one for the job when the time comes. Labor and birth is such an “in the moment” experience  – you simply cannot predict exactly how you will react until you’re there.

It may help you to have a visual focus to accompany your conscious breathing. You can recall an image with your eyes closed, focus on a picture or special object from home, keep your eyes on your partner, or simply stare at a spot on the wall. You may also find that as labor progresses, faster, shallower breathing—like a dog gently panting—feels better. You’ll figure out what works best for you. And what works best will probably change as you move through labor.

Many women “practice” breathing during pregnancy by using conscious breathing when everyday life presents stressful situations, like being caught in traffic, running late for an important meeting, or worrying about any number of things.

Find Your Rhythm
At some point in labor, you’ll “find your rhythm” or “get in a groove,” much like a marathon runner does. You’ll be living in the moment, doing without thinking.  To others you’ll appear to be in another world. Your movements will be rhythmic; you’ll relax between contractions; you’ll respond to contractions in the same way over and over again, perhaps shaking your arms, rolling your head, breathing slowly, chanting, or praying.

You’ll be totally focused, but you won’t necessarily look comfortable. You’ll look like you’re working very, very hard—which you are. When this happens, you’ll know endorphins are working their magic—dulling your pain and helping you ride your contractions intuitively. You’ll be doing exactly what you need to do. You won’t need to be rescued; in fact, the worst thing that could happen to you at this point is to be disturbed or interrupted. A healthy dose of encouragement, support, and respect are all you’ll need from your support team.

Simpson commented to Leno, “it’s all about being calm [in labor]” — and in a sense, she’s right. Being “calm,” in the way that one feels confident in her ability to birth and in the support from those around her, is key to a positive birth experience. Whether a woman finds her calm through breathing, labor support, meditation techniques, back massage, or laboring in water is inconsequential; that she has access to such tools when she needs them is indispensable.

 

The Perfect Partner

When Christina Carey, 40, imagined her baby’s birth, she pictured her husband by her side, lovingly supporting her throughout labor and delivery. But when showtime arrived, she was surprised to see an entirely different side of him.

Although Carey, who lives in Hoboken, N.J., had planned on having a vaginal birth, complications necessitated a Cesarean section. “I was fine with the unplanned surgery, but my husband was a wreck,” she recalls. “He got lost on his way to the operating room and arrived late for the surgery. Once he got there, he was so nervous he couldn’t talk. I was hoping that my husband would distract me, but the exact opposite happened,” Carey adds. “I didn’t plan on having to calm him down.”

“It’s very important to have someone there to help you through labor,” says Michael Abrahams, M.D., an OB-GYN at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. But as Carey learned, being a birth partner doesn’t come naturally to every father-to-be. Fortunately, childbirth experts say that with some planning and preparation, most men can grow into the role. Here’s how you can help.

Make sure he’s educated
“The more partners are aware of the decisions that may have to be made, the more helpful and supportive they can be,” Abrahams says. Childbirth classes, books and videos give helpful information about the stages of labor, pain-relief options and possible complications of medical interventions. Education has its limits, however, and acknowledging that is another important step for your partner. “Despite birth courses, nothing really prepares him for that moment,” Abrahams says.

Discuss your intentions
Talk with each other about any expectations you both might have regarding laboring preferences, pain relief and medical interventions. Don’t do this while you’re driving to the hospital, but during the weeks and months before your due date. “One of the key expectations that should be shared is feelings about the use of pain medications during labor,” says Penny Simkin, a Seattle doula and author of The Birth Partner: A Complete Guide to Childbirth for Dads, Doulas, and All Other Labor Companions (Harvard Common Press). “If you want natural childbirth and he thinks that’s stupid, you have a problem. You’ve got to get on the same page.

“You both also need to understand that the birth plan must be flexible enough to incorporate necessary changes if unplanned interventions become needed or if labor is so fast that there’s no time to get an epidural you may have planned,” Simkin says.

Help him expect the unexpected
There are many ways a partner can support you—massaging your back, placing cold compresses on your forehead, even channel surfing for a distracting TV show. “But it’s important for him to know that your reactions to these measures may change during labor,” Simkin says. “For example, a massage may feel heavenly for a while, then become really unpleasant. He needs to know that’s normal, and he shouldn’t take your reaction personally.”

Likewise, your partner should know that what entertains you in everyday life may infuriate you in the delivery room. Jokes are a prime example. “A lot of men use humor to alleviate the stress, and it’s not always appreciated,” Abrahams says.

Understand where he’s coming from
“It’s in the nature of men to need something tangible and task-oriented to do during a crisis,” says Jeanne Faulkner, R.N., a labor-and-delivery nurse in Portland, Ore. “But labor tends to involve a lot of sitting and just ‘being,’ and that’s hard for a lot of guys.”

You may expect your partner to be your rock during delivery, but don’t be surprised if he starts to crumble a bit. “It’s an emotional time for the father as well, and it can be hard to watch a loved one in pain,” says Erin E. Tracy, M.D., an OB-GYN at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

Consider his comfort level
Some partners are happy to be in the delivery room but have no interest in having a front-row seat. If yours is more of a head-of-the-bed guy, it will be better for both of you if you don’t order him to hang out with the doctor at the foot of the bed. “He doesn’t have to see every last detail,” Abrahams says. He doesn’t have to cut the umbilical cord, either.

Respect his traditions
In some cultures, the idea of a man witnessing childbirth is horrifying. Try not to take it personally. “Some men show up in the delivery room because they want to be an ‘American’ dad, but it’s incredibly uncomfortable for them,” Faulkner says. “They try, but then realize they just can’t be there.”

Resist the urge to force him
If the thought of being in the delivery room makes your partner break out in hives, demanding his presence may backfire. “If the man is there grudgingly or neglecting the mother, it contributes to her stress levels, and stress interferes with labor,” Simkin says. “The day you give birth is a day you’re never going to forget. You want it to be a good memory.”

Are you better off without him?
If you think your guy won’t make a good birth partner, you have two options.

First, you can have him with you in the delivery room, but don’t expect more from him than what he is comfortable doing. If you go this route, consider working with a midwife or doula who can give you what he can’t, advises doula Penny Simkin.

Or, you can station him in the waiting room, and invite someone else, such as your mother, to be your birth partner. Warning: This won’t work if your relationship with your mother is strained. “The delivery room is not the place to be working out family dynamics,” says labor nurse Jeanne Faulkner, R.N. If you ask someone else to be your birth partner, do so early in your pregnancy, so she has time to attend childbirth classes and take other steps to prepare.