Pregnancy: Basics of Second Stage of Labor for Dads

By Mathew Miller, Sharon Perkins

Second-stage labor lasts from the first push to the final delivery when you meet your new baby and become a dad. This can take anywhere from two minutes to three-plus hours.

Women with epidurals often push less effectively, and medical practitioners may let the baby labor down — meaning that the baby descends through the birth canal under the force of the contractions, without pushing — if your partner is comfortable and the baby is doing okay.

Basics of push, push, push!

Active pushing requires help from you, but don’t actually push along with your partner or you may get hemorrhoids almost the size of the baby after delivery. The nurse may ask you to help support your partner’s legs or to support her back slightly.

The people in attendance at the delivery usually do lots of enthusiastic cheering when mom starts pushing. You’ll find it easy to be enthusiastic when the baby’s head finally begins to appear, although a little apprehension about how that big thing is going to make its way out of your partner’s body is also normal.

Not all women are into the cheerleading scene, though, and actually prefer just to hear a single voice (yours) offering encouragement or no loud noises at all. If your partner looks aggravated during the cheers (beyond the effort of pushing), ask her what she wants. Then do it, and ask everyone else to comply.

Most delivery rooms have mirrors near the foot of the bed so that your partner can see what’s going on. Not everyone wants to see what’s going on down there, but some women do.

When your medical practitioner takes her seat at the end of the delivery bed or table, she may block the mirror, but most mirrors can be adjusted so your partner has a better view if she wants it.

Make sure the mirror is where she wants it, even if where she wants it is out of view. Pushing is difficult with your eyes open, so she may not see much of the actual birth.

If you want to cut the cord or you and your partner have chosen to delay cord-clamping until the cord stops pulsing, make sure your wishes are known. Although many practitioners ask you automatically, it’s safest to speak up.

If you’re turning a little green, don’t feel like you have to cut the cord. In fact, if you’re turning a little green, go sit on the floor or in a chair so the staff doesn’t have to tend to you.

Getting a little lightheaded during delivery is not a sign of weakness. Many guys don’t eat enough while their partner is in labor and often have to stand for several hours helping her push.

Deliveries are very messy; vomit, poop, and blood can make a pungent odor that can be hard to deal with, even for the most experienced labor and delivery staff. Try not to add to the mess by passing out and taking the delivery tray with you.

It’s a miracle!

Birth is miraculous. There’s no other way to put it. Even practitioners who’ve seen thousands of births are still awed by it at times. Watching a new human being come into the world is an amazing privilege, especially when she’s your new human being.

Crying at deliveries isn’t unusual. Of course, the baby usually cries, and family members often do too, but sometimes even the staff cries if they’ve gotten really attached to a particular couple. Don’t expect your doctor or midwife to get all teary-eyed, although it does happen in some cases.

Don’t be surprised if your first feeling upon seeing your baby is dismay, either. New babies aren’t always the most beautiful of creatures.

If the baby is okay, your practitioner may give your partner the baby to hold and possibly nurse, if she wants to try immediately. Some centers prefer to dry off, weigh, and assess the baby before bringing her back to mom to nurse.

Either way, within the first 15 minutes, the baby will be dried off, weighed, and wrapped up so one or both of you can hold her or your partner can start nursing.