He Said WHAT in the Delivery Room? Tips for Dads on Delivery Day

Dads-to-be are known for making blunders in the delivery room—just take it from these moms. Here’s a rundown of game-day etiquette so guys can read and learn.
save article
profile picture of The Bump Editors
Updated February 28, 2018
Hero Image

Dads don’t always say and do the right things—especially when their partner is in the delivery room, about to give birth. So if you’re expecting, do you both a favor: Forward them this delivery room etiquette crib-sheet, then discuss. (Dads don’t have to agree with the rules. They just need to accept them.) It’s chock full of frank advice from moms who’ve endured, while in labor, all sorts of indignities and their partner’s clueless bungles—including bad jokes, snoring and whining. The take home? By talking about what you expect from your partner on the big day well before the big day, you’ll be able to save yourself from a lot of exasperation—and focus all your energy on giving birth to baby.

1. Try Not to Totally Fall Asleep

My husband took a NAP…and to make matters worse, SNORED!!! —annam829

Yes, labor is an incredibly intense experience for both partners, and yes, it’s exhausting. But no, you cannot go into deep-snooze mode. If your partner isn’t sleeping, neither are you. That’s just the way it goes. You stayed up 48 hours straight in college, right? You can do it again now.

2. Hold All Calls

He was taking calls from work while I was pushing!!! —goillini823

If your partner is deep into labor, turn that ringer right off. Your boss, colleagues and friends will understand. If your partner agrees, send out a general update or two to the fam, but keep it to a minimum. Besides the hospital staff, the only person you should be listening to is your partner.

3. Quit the Whining

During pushing, he put my leg down and stretched, saying his arms were getting sore. Are you kidding me?! —Soter1

“He said I hurt his hand in the recovery room—I almost killed him for saying that.”—brandonswife07

Related Video

This is one time where your lady has every right to claim all the pity. Chances are she’s been dealing with crazy-painful contractions and perhaps even pushing for hours. Now is not the time to complain that your back hurts from standing by her side or that your pulled muscle from working out yesterday is acting up. Just don’t go there, guys. You can deal.

4. No Screen Time

Before I started pushing, he was watching basketball on the TV in the labor room. When we had to switch rooms mid-labor, he freaked out because our new room was missing a remote. I was not amused. —AmyCC1980

Unless the two of you are watching some agreed-upon program to pass the time together, you’re not allowed to rule the remote and get sucked into something that the mom-to-be doesn’t want to watch. We don’t care if it’s the playoffs or a CNN newsflash. Ditto re: the small screen on your phone. What to do instead? Focus on your partner, of course! Childbirth educators stress the importance of support and touch in labor—it can even help things progress more quickly and smoothly. Pull up a chair, hold her hand and keep your eyes on her, not the screen.

5. Refrain From Bad Jokes

“When Valarie came out, she was way bigger than we thought she’d be. My husband, being the ever-so-funny one, said, ‘That’s a huge btch!’ It was a Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo reference, but the nurses were shocked.” —olivejuice127*

“When my son started crowning, the nurse commented that he was going to be a cone head. On my next push, my husband belted out, ‘We come from France!’ I would’ve kicked him in the head if I could feel my legs.” —mamamoos

Save the bad jokes—or, to be safe, any jokes—or a more appropriate time. The hospital staff may not share your sense of humor (and you don’t want them calling Child Protective Services on the first day). And even if your partner typically does appreciate your cracks, she may not appreciate it when she’s in excruciating pain. If what’s coming out of your mouth isn’t supportive, then zip it.

6. Watch Where You’re Going (and What You’re Doing)

“As [my husband] stepped around to get a front-row view, he [got] caught on my IV cord. He only ripped the tape from my arm, but a hush came over the room.”—Val&B0604

“As the doctor and nurse were prepping for the delivery by getting the tray of instruments ready, they accidentally knocked the bulb syringe on the floor. My husband, being a nice guy, picked it up and started to place it back on the sterile table. The nurse, doctor and even I hurriedly told him, ‘No, don’t put that back on there!’ Poor guy was clueless as to why we were yelling at him.”—ArmyQM

Don’t be that guy that gets in the way. Sure, the anxiety and anticipation can make you clumsy, shaky and stupid. Take deep breaths—the more you can control your nerves, the better off everyone will be. So, for the most part, keep unnecessary movements in that birthing room to a minimum.

7. Don’t Lose It

My husband turned white and the nurse had to stop helping me [so that she could] get him to a chair, and she took the oxygen off of me and gave it to him! —mel41g

“My husband was crying as I was going through pain. The doula kept bringing him tissues. I looked at him and said, ‘What are YOU crying for? I’m the one who’s in labor!’” —Sxia

“If your wife is getting a c-section and they tell you not to look over the blue curtain, don’t look over the blue curtain. I almost passed out.” —Frank (Bumpie maggs116’s husband)

Banish unpleasant surprises by signing up for a birthing class with your partner and keep your eyes open during the videos. Read up the stages of labor, what to expect during a c-section and get informed on the different types of medical equipment you might encounter. If you can seriously prepare, you’ll be far less likely to require smelling salts on the big day.

8. Keep Mum About Things You Find “Amazing”

“After the doctor placed her placenta in a bowl, in shock, I said to my wife: ‘It looked like you gave birth to your stomach.’” —Nick (husband of Bumpie NicknSteph)

“My husband kept telling me how much water was coming out of me. As he stared down there, he said: ‘I could fill up my Gatorade bottle with all that!’”—SarahTX5701

Your amazement of what your wife has just done can come across as a backhanded compliment, and she (as you may have noticed the last couple of months) is a bit sensitive right now. Also: Hold the “Eeeeeew!” when baby (who will be covered in fluids) comes out. Again, preparation can prevent these foot-in-mouth moments. The same no-jokes rule of thumb applies here: If it’s not helpful, then don’t say it.

9. Bring the Camera—and Know When to Use It

He left both cameras in the car. Our daughter’s first moments are recorded on his iPhone. —nark

Discuss paparazzi privileges with your partner in advance. Some women are cool with being photographed in labor, and others want only “after” pics. Either way, you’ll probably want to capture at least a good first family photo and fresh shots of your minutes-old baby. Obviously, selfies—with Dad all smiles and Mom laboring in pain in the background—are off-limits.

Updated December 2017

Please note: The Bump and the materials and information it contains are not intended to, and do not constitute, medical or other health advice or diagnosis and should not be used as such. You should always consult with a qualified physician or health professional about your specific circumstances.

save article

Next on Your Reading List

Newborn baby resting on mother's chest after labor and delivery
The Best Labor and Delivery Gowns, According to New Moms
By Christin Perry
pregnant woman in hospital bed before delivery
What Happens at the Hospital When You Deliver
Medically Reviewed by Kendra Segura, MD
black pregnant woman in hospital bed for labor and delivery
These Are the Best Hospitals for Black Maternal Care, US News Reports
By Wyndi Kappes
Jason Kelce poses for a photo with Kylie Kelce during the Kelce documentary premiere at Suzanne Roberts Theater on September 8, 2023 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Jason Kelce Shares 4 Delivery Room Essentials All Dads Should Have
By Wyndi Kappes
pregnant woman talking to doctor in exam room
What Is Cervical Effacement?
Medically Reviewed by Kendra Segura, MD
pregnant woman in hospital bed during labor and delivery
13 Common Labor and Delivery Fears (and Facts to Quell Your Concerns)
Medically Reviewed by Kendra Segura, MD
castor oil on wood table
Is It Safe to Drink Castor Oil to Induce Labor?
Medically Reviewed by Kendra Segura, MD
pregnant woman at doctor's office
Baby Is Coming: What to Know About Cervical Dilation
Medically Reviewed by Kendra Segura, MD
doctor examining pregnant woman's belly for membrane sweep
What Is a Membrane Sweep—and How Can It Induce Labor?
Medically Reviewed by Kendra Segura, MD
evening primrose oil
Is It Safe to Induce Labor With Evening Primrose Oil?
Medically Reviewed by Kendra Segura, MD
mother who just gave birth holding newborn baby in hospital bed
Expert Tips for How to Prevent Tearing During Birth
Medically Reviewed by Kendra Segura, MD
couple packing hospital bag for birth
Hospital Bag Checklist: What to Pack for Delivery
Medically Reviewed by Kendra Segura, MD
pregnant woman doing exercises to induce labor
Exercises to Help Induce Labor
Medically Reviewed by Kendra Segura, MD
What Does It Mean to Have a Breech Baby?
What Does It Mean to Have a Breech Baby?
Medically Reviewed by Kendra Segura, MD
pregnant woman with IV in arm during labor
The Lowdown on Using Pitocin During Labor
Medically Reviewed by Kendra Segura, MD
pregnant woman sitting in bed
How to Do Perineal Massage to Prepare for a Vaginal Delivery
Medically Reviewed by Kendra Segura, MD
pregnant woman sitting at home
What to Know About the Transverse Baby Position
Medically Reviewed by Kendra Segura, MD
pregnant woman sitting in bed holding belly
What Does Baby's Fetal Station in Labor and Delivery Mean?
Medically Reviewed by Kendra Segura, MD
mother holding newborn baby after giving birth in hospital
What Happens Right After Baby Is Born?
By Liz Callahan Schnabolk
man helping woman through labor and delivery
9 Ways to Support Your Birthing Partner During Labor and Delivery
Medically Reviewed by Kendra Segura, MD
Article removed.
Article removed.
Name added. View Your List