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Dads-to-be: the birth plan and pain relief

Writing a birth plan can be a shared responsibility. A dad-to-be can help by discussing what their partner wants when it comes to labour and birth, including pain relief.

This article includes information on writing a birth plan for home and hospital births covering:
Dads: preparing for a home birth
Various methods of pain relief to consider
Further information

You don’t have to write a birth plan, but you may find it useful as a framework to discuss what you both would like to happen during labour and the birth. By discussing your ideas together, you can find out what kind of labour your partner wants and support her in trying to have the birth experience you both want. 

The plan can cover:

  • The place of birth
  • Who will be present
  • Mobility during labour
  • Coping strategies, such as birth positions, massage and breathing that you may have practised as a couple in antenatal classes
  • Pain relief 
  • What to do if intervention is required
  • Who will hold the baby and cut the cord
  • Breastfeeding and skin-to-skin contact
  • Do you want the baby cleaned before being handed to you?
  • Whether you want your baby to have the vitamin K injection
  • Anything else that is important to you

For dads-to-be, a written birth plan is an opportunity to affirm what you and your partner want to happen during the birth. Some midwives or hospitals may have a birth plan template that can help get you started.

It is helpful if you are aware of your partner’s preferences, because as labour progresses she may want to avoid detailed discussions. As the hormonal changes of labour progress, your partner may stop talking as she concentrates on what her body needs to do.

Discussing and understanding your birth plan can help you feel more confident as the birth approaches, allowing you to focus on supporting your partner and embracing the experience of becoming a dad and fatherhood. 

Dads helping to prepare for a home birth

A growing number of parents opt to give birth at home. Planned home births are safe for healthy women with an uncomplicated pregnancy and are relatively straightforward to organise. Your midwife will talk you through what you need to do to prepare. Dads can help with numerous things at a home birth. 

This could include soft lighting and music, as well as plastic sheeting to protect furniture or carpets, and a bucket or bowl for the placenta. The midwife will provide a birth pack with sheets, pads and items she might need at around week 36 of the pregnancy. If you are using a birth pool, have a trial run at assembling and filling it beforehand. Have an emergency bag ready in case you need to go to hospital.

Various methods of pain relief to consider

Many women use self-help methods to help them cope during labour but you may also want to discuss the medical options available. Your partner’s wishes may change during labour though. Here are some of the most commonly used methods of pain relief.

  • TENS machine – this emits electrical impulses which some women feel help to block pain if used during early labour. These can be hired in advance to give you a chance to become familiar with how they work.
  • Entonox (also known as gas and air) - this will make your partner feel light headed and distracts her from the pain. Many women like the fact that they are in control and it doesn’t restrict movement. It can make some women feel nauseous though.
  • Pethidine – an analgesic which changes awareness and may help your partner relax but can also make her feel sick. It passes through to the baby and can make him sleepy, which may make breastfeeding difficult to establish.
  • Epidural – a local anaesthetic injected between the vertebra which removes pain and feeling from the waist down. Epidurals also involve constant monitoring of the baby, which decreases mum’s mobility and can slow labour down. Low dose ‘mobile’ epidurals are available in some maternity units, and these allow greater mobility. Having an epidural increases the chance of needing to be assisted with a suction cap (ventouse) or forceps.

Unless there is a template, try and keep your birth plan to a single sheet of A4, typed in a large font to make it easy to read. The midwife present when your partner goes into labour may not be the one you have seen before, so try and keep the birth plan simple.

Attach one copy of the plan to the maternity records and have a copy for yourself and one for the midwife.

The important thing to remember is that a birth plan is not set in stone. Things may happen during labour that you hadn’t planned for, so be flexible. You should also both feel that you can change your mind as labour progresses.

Further information

NCT's helpline offers practical and emotional support with all aspects of being pregnant, birth and early parenthood: 0300 330 0700. We also offer antenatal courses which are a great way to find out more about birth, labour and life with a new baby.

NHS Choices on how to create a birth plan.