By Brian Welsh, MD
The baby is coming! You may wonder how can I help during labor? If you have not wondered how you can help, you should. The most important thing is to support your partner in any way you can, within the boundaries of her needs. At times labor is a long process, and you might be in the hospital delivery room for quite a while. Bring things to help pass the time such as games, movies, cards, or something your partner enjoys. You can also help time her contractions as well as massaging her back and shoulders to help her relax in between contractions (if this helps her relax). Once pushing starts, words of encouragement are always welcome. If you want to be involved with cutting the cord, make sure your delivering physician knows prior to delivery. As long as baby appears healthy, we are happy to accommodate this special moment! But remember, don’t be a tough guy, if you feel weak or light-headed sit down.
When do we get to go home? Typically, babies are released to go home within 24-48 hours of a vaginal delivery. If a cesarean section is required, mom may need to stay a little longer for pain control.
Can I be involved in breast feeding? Well, obviously, some parts of breastfeeding can only be performed by mom. Some partners love for the dad to bring the baby to her for feeding, then he can take care of burping and changing the baby after, and then rocking the baby to sleep. However, some partners do not want you involved in this part of care. Ask your partner if she would like you to help with any of these tasks. If your partner is pumping, or bottle feeding, this is a great opportunity for you to give mom some much needed rest while you bond by bottle feeding baby.
What about depression? It is very common for moms to feel sad or anxious after delivery. Mild feelings of depression or anxiety are called postpartum blues. Typically this only lasts a week or two, if the symptoms are extreme, or last longer it could be postpartum depression, which is a more serious condition. If you feel postpartum depression is occurring, it is important to contact your partner’s OB/GYN. Some signs include the blues getting worse or lasting too long, feelings of sadness which interrupt the normal routine and mom cannot care for herself or her baby, changes in appetite, decreased pleasure, and many other things. The most concerning sign would be thoughts of self-harm or suicide, which while rare, is obviously very serious. If ANY of these symptoms occur, or you are concerned as a Dad, it is okay for you to be the one to call your partner’s OB/GYN’s office!
The primary question on your mind is….. so when can we have sex again? In general we advise no intercourse for 6 weeks after delivery….sorry, Dad.
Remember, your partner’s OB/GYN is here to help you and be a resource for you through this exciting and terrifying time!