What Does Dad Need to Know about Birth Overseas?

Apr 23, 2024 | 2 comments

Today we continue with our special four-part series on birth overseas by Chandler Gilow of The Global Birth CoachDads, it’s your turn as Chandler shares the third article in this series and lets you know what you need to know! 

Having a Baby Overseas: A Chat with Chandler Gilow (Read here)

How Do you Prepare for Birth Overseas? (Read here)

What does Dad Need to Know about Birth Overseas? (Read below)

What are the Unique Challenges of Infertility, Miscarriage, and Stillbirth Overseas? (4/25)


In past generations, it was uncommon for a father to feel as though he had a definite role to play in the birthing process. However, with the current generation of fathers, the question is less one of “Do I have a role?” and more one of “I know I have a role; how best can I support my wife?” Fathers, you genuinely want to be involved during the pregnancy and birth, but you need the skills to accomplish the job. The specific techniques you, as a dad, may use will differ depending on your relationship with your spouse and where you are located, but I have found that globally, there are four primary roles a dad plays at any birth. 

Each role can be nuanced for a cross-cultural context and adapted to personal preference. Under-girding each of these roles is the assumption that, you, dad have taken the time to be as educated as possible about birth through a birth class or reading. The most confident dads are those who have a solid foundation in understanding the birth process and are on the same page with their wives regarding birth desires. 

Here are the four potential roles that fall in two main categories:

Comforter and Encourager Roles

It is important to discuss with your wife how she thinks she wants to be comforted in labor or what she expects your role to be. Having an open conversation about what kind of comfort is desired will allow you time to prepare accordingly.

—Out of all the people in the world, you know best how to comfort your spouse. 

—In times of doubt, your words of encouragement or prayers will mean the most.

—Your touch can elicit oxytocin releases in her body that help with labor progression.

—You know what comfort items would help your wife most: comfortable clothing items, a favorite pillow or blanket, favorite food items, lotions, or other labor support options. 

—You are in the best position to create a space of comfort (dimming the lights, playing music, controlling the temperature in the room etc.)

—Even in the throes of labor, when some women do not want to be touched by anyone, your presence in the room can be steadying. 

Preparation may look like:

—Talking through specific prayers/Bible verses/words of encouragement to use

—Putting together a song playlist where dad can be the DJ

—Practicing certain comfort techniques like massage/acupressure/hip squeeze. 

Advocate and Protector of Labor Space Roles

Your wife’s primary job is to focus on labor or the delivery if having a cesarean. Having a calm spirit and focused mind is so important! You can best support your wife by allowing her to stay focused. That means:

—Protecting your wife’s space. If she is being most helped by low lights, you can ensure they are lowered whenever possible. 

—If 15 hospital workers want to come into the room to see the foreign woman laboring, you can guard the door.

—You can politely ask that providers whisper in the room if she really needs to focus. 

—If the provider has a question or is pressuring for an answer during a contraction, ask them for a few minutes to discuss it privately to reduce the pressure in the environment and give her time to think.

—Direct questions to you during labor if your wife needs to focus. 

—Overseas, it can be especially helpful for dads to be on guard to watch for any interventions that are about to be done without consent or intervene when an issue arises. Your wife can relax knowing that you are alert and will advocate for her. In particular, you can be on watch to see:

—If the doctor reaches for a scalpel to cut an episiotomy after you explicitly told them you did not want an episiotomy if not medically necessary. 

—If a nurse starts pressing on your wife’s stomach while she is pushing (a common practice in many countries, but it can increase the risk of tearing and birth injury). It is very uncomfortable and not necessary. You can ask her to stop. 

—If providers come into the room and start pressuring for an unnecessary cesarean section, you can take the conversation outside the room or request a certain amount of time to discuss it as a couple in private.

—You can go with the baby anytime he/she is not in the room with you to ensure the baby does not receive anything you do not want them to have. 


Dad, your personality might lean more towards the encourager side or the advocate side, but the truth is that you’re going to need to tap into all four of these roles during the birth of your child. Thinking through these four roles and the types of situations you might be in during the birth of your child will help you to avoid the avoidable stress (and have more margin for the unavoidable!). I want you to be prepared to support your wife and welcome your child because your role in this birth is vital (and exciting).

What questions can I help with in the comments?

Photo by Jimmy Conover on Unsplash

Chandler Gilow

Wife, Mom of two little girls, Registered Nurse, Lactation Specialist. Founder of The Global Birth Coach. Based out of sub-Saharan Africa. 

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2 Comments

  1. C

    Yes!!! I love this series and especially this article for dads! We just had our first baby overseas and I am thankful we had this knowledge and preparation that you are mentioning. So important!!! Thank you!

    Reply
    • Chandler Gilow

      Congratulations <3 I am so glad to hear you enjoyed the series and were able to feel supported during this season!

      Reply

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