As a spouse or partner, you must support your partner throughout pregnancy and offer help after delivery. 

Your support during labour and childbirth is invaluable and based on scientific evidence, women who have a good support system as they undergo labour have shorter labour periods, less need for pain medication and better outcomes for their babies. 

In this blog, we offer insights, tips and advice to spouses on how to support their partners during labour and childbirth.

We offer insights into understanding labour pains and signs of labour to bring your partner gifts after delivery.

Ready, Set, Go!

There are occasions where I have seen male partners just sitting on the bench in the maternity units unsure of the kind of help they can offer to their wives or partners

How can you support your partner during labour and childbirth?

Empower yourself for her sake

One of the requirements on how you the husband help during labour is to get to know some information about labour like the phases of labour, and what to expect during labour like the signs of labour; you can enlighten yourself beforehand by asking questions to learn during the prenatal visits that you attend together with your partner or while attending childbirth education classes together

Ask her beforehand about her expectations and how you may support her during labour and childbirth

Birth plan preparedness

  • What are your expectations in terms of mode of delivery; where to deliver; finances; transport logistics; and provider for delivery? Ensure both of you have discussed and have answers to these questions
  • What to pack in the maternity bag checklist is here. Help your partner/spouse as she packs her bag by ensuring that all the essential items for baby; and mum are ready


Understanding Labour

Labour is divided into three stages with the first stage having four phases. The three stages of labour are:

  1. First Stage where there are changes on the cervix as the uterus begins to contract and relax. The cervix will thin and dilate up to 10 centimetres (full dilation of the cervix). This stage may last a few hours to 24 hours or more. First-time moms may have a slightly longer duration than second-time moms-to-be. However, there are variations which may be dependent on the baby’s position; and how strong the contractions are among other factors. This first stage has an early latent phase, an active phase and a transition phase. These cervical changes are noticed by a health provider upon examination in the hospital
  2. The second stage of labour is from the time of full cervical dilation till the delivery of the baby
  3. The third stage is the period between the delivery of the baby and the delivery of the placenta.
  4. The fourth stage of labour is one to two hours after delivery. During this period your doctor may repair an episiotomy or perineal tear.

Signs of Labour

  • Uterine contractions that cause tightening and relaxation of the uterus resulting in lower abdominal pains that increase in severity and frequency as labour progresses.  This may be felt initially like a period-menstrual cramp pain which then regularly comes and increases in intensity. Initial pain duration is short, may last less than 20 seconds and the pain intervals are also wider apart (may be 1-2 in 10 minutes or more than 5 to 7 minutes apart. In the active phase of labour the pains are more severe and the interval between one contraction and the next is shorter. True labour pains are different from Braxton-Hicks contractions with one distinguishing feature being, that Braxton-Hicks contractions are less predictable or irregular. The lower abdominal pains usually radiate or move to the lower back as well.
  • Some women may experience back pains
  • The baby may descend deeper into the pelvis-lightening in medical language.
  • A bloody mucoid discharge from the cervix may be seen. This is termed as a bloody show. The cervix is closed with a mucus plug during pregnancy and the mucus plug will come off. It indicates that the cervix is softening or ripening in readiness for labour.
  • Some women may experience a sudden burst of energy levels just before the onset of labour
  • Vomiting has been associated with early signs of labour on some occasions.
  • Water breaking which is termed as rupture of membranes in medical terms. Your partner will notice a gush of fluid to the floor or there may be fluid trickling down their thighs or on the inner wears. She may wake up soaked in a pool of liquor like bed-wetting. 

Get Set: Set!

Be Present

Your presence is the number one way of showing support to your partner. Reschedule work assignments or any other engagements and be there for your partner. This will lessen her anxiety knowing that you are there for her.

Be good company while at it! Tell her nice stories or jokes in the early stages; put some relaxing music from a collection she loves to listen to; ensure she has eaten something or carry some snacks with you as you get set to go to the hospital for delivery.

Ensure the mom-to-be has transport to the hospital depending on your birth plan. Accompany her to the hospital once you are all set.



Bring maternity bag for delivery with you

Do not forget to bring the maternity bag with you. You may countercheck against the checklist to ensure everything you and your partner will need during the hospital stay in the maternity unit is packed.

Hospital for Delivery

You may call your gynecologist as you head to the hospital, although most times the hospital will inform your doctor once you arrive and the admission process is underway or completed.

Your partner will be asked some questions regarding her health and the pregnancy and will be examined.


Encourage your partner

Emotional support is important. Do not just sit there and watch her in pain unless she requests that you keep quiet. Your confidence can be her strength at such times

Shower her with words of encouragement to let her know that she is not alone. Your words may help keep her mind off the labour pains. 

Words of Encouragement to Tell your Partner During Labour

  •  Remind her of your love for her; and how much you care about her even though she knows this
  • Tell her she can do it
  • Let her know she is strong and will pull through the process
  • Offer comforting and reassuring words

Physical Support

Offering lower back massage can help reduce the pains of labour; helping her change position or move around as directed by the gynecologist can come in handy; wiping sweat off her forehead.

You can remind her to take in deep breaths when the contractions are present. You can both do this together. This will help so that she is not pushing with every contraction to allow time for the baby to navigate the pelvis and cervix to dilate.

Hold her hand as you reassure her.


Do not Complain

Be prepared and know that labour takes time and you may need to be patient. Ensure you are comfortable; have comfy attire and shoes.

One of the advice I came across when researching this is that as the male partner or spouse, you are not to air your complaints at this time about how tired you are etc. Labour is a tedious process, but this is not the right time.

Do not take some negative words or negative feelings that may be coming from your partner to heart.

If you feel that you need a break to take a breather; go for a short call or need to go for a coffee break, politely excuse yourself so that you may be strong enough to assist your partner after the break.

You cannot fill from a place of emptiness and therefore re-energize to offer optimal help during labour and childbirth.

Listen and Advocate for your partner

Listen to your partner to understand her needs which may keep on changing as labour pains gets stronger and stronger. Be attentive to the non-verbal cues as well

Discuss your expectations prior so that you are on the same page and can be an advocate for her. Other ways of advocating for her are; by asking questions in the maternity unit that you may both have and providing answers to the questions by the health workers.

Your partner may be getting most or all of the attention during this time and rightfully so, avoid complaining about how tired you may be or how long the whole process is. 

Be flexible

Be available to help when important decisions are being made and be flexible to change. No two labours are the same and sometimes the plan on issues like mode of delivery may need to change.

Congratulate Your Partner

As you will come to realize, labour can be messy and tiresome and all. When it is all done, Congratulate the mom-to-be for a job well done. The process of labour is intense in all aspects and emotionally draining.

Make this time memorable for the both of you. You may bring flowers, buy a card or something that you know your partner likes. Taking pictures if allowed to capture some of the moments that you would want to remember is one way of being a support partner.


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