17 things partners need to know about childbirth

Man and woman in car

What does a birth partner do while you're in labour? As well as being supportive and helpful, hopefully they will bear these solid gold nuggets of Mumsnet wisdom (ie what NOT to do) in mind.

1. Babies wait for no man

Willy Wonka busy

“My husband was working overseas. I rang him on the Tuesday to tell him I was in labour and he needed to come back. He said: 'I'm really busy at work, I won't be able to get back until the weekend at the earliest'. His boss took the phone off him and calmly said to me: 'He'll be with you tomorrow afternoon at the latest'.”

“'Cab company's saying 40 minutes. Can you wait?' I don't know. Ask the other passenger currently boring down through my pelvic floor.

2. Forget social niceties

Man finger on lips

“When we arrived at the locked hospital doors at 4am and I could feel the baby crowning, my husband rather helpfully told me to 'stop making so much noise', as I would wake up the other patients.”

3. You're not in more pain than she is

Peter Griffin

“My partner had treatment for his tennis elbow while I was there. He asked the midwife for some ice.”

“My other half was incessantly complaining about the smallest, tiniest ulcer on his tongue during the birth of my youngest. I was screaming the hospital down and he was showing me the tip of his tongue.”

“I work in maternity, and once heard a partner being so supportive of his wife enduring a long labour: 'I know just how you feel, I once did a really big hard poo and it really hurt'.”

4. Try not to be too squeamish…


“My husband fainted twice. He also, at one point during an internal, zipped his face up in his coat. Idiot.”

5. …or too inept


He got my hair caught in the bloody mini-fan we had to cool me down, and suggested cutting it out. I managed to untangle it between contractions.”

6. Bit of a thirst on you? Ignore it!


“I decided to go for a walk while having contractions to move things along. Darling husband suggested we stop in the pub for a quick drink.”

7. Get involved – but not too involved

Robert De Niro breasts

“I opened my eyes at the end of a long push to find him this close to my face doing NCT breathing. Fortunately for him I was too entangled in wires to smack him.”

“'Breathe in… now breathe out… breathe in… now breathe out… brea-' I know how to fucking breathe.”

“He was looking at the monitor I was wired up to, helpfully telling me when I was having a big contraction. I had already noticed, thanks.”

8. Who is this really not about? YOU

man on bench

“Mine fainted while the doctor put in my epidural. Everyone then ran about fawning over him – bringing him water and toast and I was like, 'Er, hello?'”

“He fainted, slipped under the bed and banged his head on the way down. A nice lady from the coffee shop took him for a ride in the grounds in a wheelchair.”

9. Focus on the main event

Where's my car?

My husband became obsessed with parking. Utterly obsessed. I had been pushing for nearly two hours, they were starting to talk about intervening, and he suddenly informed me that he just needed to put some more money in the machine. He started fumbling around for change and was about to leave the room, when the midwife yelled, 'Are you parked in an ambulance bay? No? WELL STAY WHERE YOU ARE THEN'. Darling daughter was born five minutes later.”

“He went to B&Q – suddenly realised he needed more paint. I thought he had nipped to the loo until he came back with the carrier bag.”

10. Try not to be an arse

Steve Carrell

“My husband was holding my hand ready for the first push – and said, 'Ewww, attractive face!' as I started pushing! Needless to say, he got called every name under the sun.”

11. You might have to be a bit brave

Simpsons gif

“When I was brought out he was sat on a bed with a cup of tea that a midwife had made him because, 'it was so hard for him'. He then began telling me just how hard it was being outside the theatre, as there were no chairs and nowhere for him to put his lovely cup of tea down.”

“I held his hand through an enormous contraction at the transition phase and afterwards he looked at me and said huffily, 'You've hurt my hand'.”

12. When they say NIL by mouth, they really do mean it


“Darling husband said, 'Are you sure you don't want a bit of this biryani?'. No, I do not want biryani when I am screaming with pain.”

“I was fully dilated and in transition and my husband piped up, 'Would you like an Eccles cake?'”

13. Humour can work – but tone is everything


“As I was having my 493rd (or what felt like it) internal examination by the midwife, hooked up to several drips and thoroughly fed up, my partner leaned towards the midwife with a cheeky grin and said, 'If you find my watch in there, can I have it back please, love?'”

14. Women in labour have no use for sexy lingerie

You can thank me later

“I was in early labour, my waters had broken and I'd gone through the five pairs of knickers I'd brought in my hospital bag, so I asked him to fetch a few more clean pairs. He turned up an hour later with ONE of the tiniest thongs he could find in my drawer, screwed up in his hand.”

15. NO SELFIES. Also, no selfies. PS: no selfies.

Man posing in hospital

“My partner took loads of selfies of himself pouting.”

16. Remember, your partner is bringing a human being into the world

Make the right decision

“I was 7cm dilated. Contractions every minute or so. Phone rings and darling husband answers:

'Hello? Oh, right. Yes, hang on, I'll just pass you over [tries to hand phone to me] It's the bank.'

I look at the midwife. The midwife looks at me. We both look at darling husband. He takes phone back.

'I'm sorry, could you ring back another time? She's having a baby at the moment.'"

17. Check your facts. Then check them again

check facts

“We didn't know in advance whether darling child two was going to be a girl or boy, so I asked the midwife which we'd had. 'That's for you to find out' was the reply. So my husband carefully looked and announced, 'It's a boy'. The midwife smiled, examined the baby, and asked if he was sure. He had got it wrong.”

Watch three couples quiz each other as they share their experiences of childbirth – from both sides…