Congratulations! You’re going to be a new father!
To prepare you for what will happen when your partner goes into labor, we’ve prepared the below frequently asked questions.
One sage word of advice: remember to eat before you come to the hospital, and snack while your partner labors. Many fathers experience low blood sugar and can feel faint or queasy, which is no help to mom! A simply sugary snack or juice can help greatly.
Q: What does it mean if my partner’s water breaks?
During pregnancy, the baby is surrounded by a fluid-filled sac called the amniotic sac. For some women, this sac ruptures at the very beginning of labor, which is perfectly normal if it happens around the 37-week mark.
Water can slowly leak out, or there may be a gush of pale or clear fluid.
At this point, you should call your ob/gyn or birthing team, who will inform you of your next steps. This is usually not an emergency.
Many times, your provider will ask you to remain at home for a few hours, and you and your partner can rest, walk, and eat or drink before coming to the hospital.
Q: What do I need to do when I get to the hospital?
When you arrive at the hospital, you should drop your partner off at the maternity entrance and park your car. Your partner can begin to check herself in, and you can meet her after you park.
Then, you and your partner will be escorted to a labor and delivery room, where nurses will assess your partner’s labor process, begin monitoring her and the baby, and discuss the birth plan. You will also be seen by a doctor.
Q: What will be happening to my partner while she is in active labor?
Labor can take anywhere from a few minutes to over 24 hours, depending on each woman. Be prepared for a long waiting period.
Once your partner is in labor, she will be experiencing several hours of painful contractions that become increasingly more intense until she is ready to push.
In the early phases of labor, if your provider agrees, you can walk the hallways, rest, listen to your favorite music, or speak with your family. You can also provide her physical support by massaging her back, shoulders, or neck. Nurses can also show you how to help your partner know when a contraction is coming by watching the monitor.
During this time, your partner may also choose to have an epidural, which is an injection of pain medicine into the spine that helps control pain. When your partner gets the epidural, you may be asked to step outside, only for a brief moment.
Nurses and your provider will tell you and your partner when it is time to push.
Continue to communicate about your partner’s needs to the team helping her and be her advocate.
Q: What happens if something goes unexpectedly while my partner is laboring?
Your ob/gyn or birthing team will explain what is happening during the entire process. They will tell her when to push, when to stop pushing, and what is happening when they begin to see the baby’s head.
If there’s something you don’t understand, speak up and ask!
The team may discuss the need for a C-section, which delivers the baby through an incision in the abdomen instead of a vaginal delivery. Many babies are born via C-section, and while this is a serious surgery, it's also a common procedure.
Some reasons for a C-section are the baby is breach (with its feet instead of head coming out first), the baby is too big, the contractions aren’t strong enough to push the baby down the birthing canal, or if the baby’s heart rate is concerning for your provider.
If this happens, the team may move you into a more sterile birthing room. They will wipe her stomach down with an antibiotic that looks dark orange. Don’t worry – this is not blood!
Then, an anesthesiologist will give her medication to help numb your partner from the waist down and drape a sheet under over your partner’s chest so you don’t have to see what is happening. In some cases, you can ask for a clear drape so you can watch. Even though your partner is awake, she should not be able to feel anything because of the medication.
You should stay next to your partner above the sheet and reassure her. It’s generally not a good idea to peek over the drape until you are advised to do so by your team.
Q: What happens after the baby is born?
Once the physician delivers your baby, he or she can place the baby on mom’s chest, or wait a moment and cut the umbilical cord, which nourished your baby during the pregnancy. Many times, dads are allowed to cut the cord.
The team will then wipe the baby off and check its vital stats before allowing you and your partner to have skin-to-skin session (where the baby lies on your or mom’s bare skin, increasing bonding) or a first breastfeeding session.
Shortly after, you will accompany the baby to get a more complete check-up in a close-by nursery and another team will help your partner recover and attend to any medical needs she may have.
Once the check-up is complete, you will be reunited with your partner in another room and you can begin to enjoy being a family.