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Dads to be

  • Becoming a dad starts before your partner gets pregnant.
  • Learn as much as you can about pregnancy and childbirth.
  • Go with your partner to her prenatal care checkups.
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Preterm labor: What dads can do

Preterm labor is labor that happens too early, before 37 weeks of pregnancy. Babies born too early (called premature babies) may have more health problems at birth and later in life or need to stay in the hospital longer than babies born later. 

Learning the signs of preterm labor may help keep your baby from being born too early. If your partner has even one sign of preterm labor, call her health care provider. Getting help quickly is the best thing you can do for your baby. There are treatments that may help stop your partner’s labor and help her stay pregnant longer. 

What are the signs of preterm labor? 

These are the signs of preterm labor:

  • Contractions that make your partner’s belly tighten up like a fist every 10 minutes or more often
  • Change in the color of her vaginal discharge, or bleeding from the vagina
  • The feeling that the baby is pushing down. This is called pelvic pressure. 
  • Low, dull backache 
  • Cramps that feel like she’s having her period 
  • Belly cramps with or without diarrhea 

What should you do if your partner has any of the signs of preterm labor?

Call her health care provider. Her provider may tell her to:

  • Come to the office or go to the hospital.
  • Stop what she's doing and rest on her left side for 1 hour.
  • Drink two to three glasses of water or juice (not coffee or soda). 

If the signs get worse or don’t go away, call your partner’s provider again or take your partner to the hospital. If the signs do go away, help your partner relax for the rest of the day. 

What else can you do to help prevent preterm labor?

We don’t always know exactly what causes preterm labor. But there are things that make a woman more likely than others to have preterm labor. Here are some things you can do to help reduce your partner’s chances of having preterm labor: 

Last reviewed December 2013 

Frequently Asked Questions

Can dad's exposure to chemicals harm his future kids?

Dad's exposure to harmful chemicals and substances before conception or during his partner's pregnancy can affect his children. Harmful exposures can include drugs (prescription, over-the-counter and illegal drugs), alcohol, cigarettes, cigarette smoke, chemotherapy and radiation. They also include exposure to lead, mercury and pesticides.

Unlike mom's exposures, dad's exposures do not appear to cause birth defects. They can, however, damage a man's sperm quality, causing fertility problems and miscarriage. Some exposures may cause genetic changes in sperm that may increase the risk of childhood cancer. Cancer treatments, like chemotherapy and radiation, can seriously alter sperm, at least for a few months post treatment. Some men choose to bank their sperm to preserve its integrity before they receive treatment. If you have a question about a specific exposure, contact the Organization of Teratology Information Specialists at

Do I need a birth plan?

You don't have to have a birth plan. But having one is a great idea! A birth plan is a set of instructions you make about your baby's birth. It tells your provider how you feel about things like who you want with you during labor, what you want to do during labor, if you want drugs to help with labor pain, and if there are special religious or cultural practices you want to have happen once your baby is born. Fill out a birth plan with your partner. Then share it with your provider and with the nurses at the hospital or birthing center where you plan to have your baby. Share it with your family and other support people, too. It's best for everyone to know ahead of time how you want labor and birth to be.

Is it safe to have sex during pregnancy?

For most women, yes. Unless your health care provider advises you otherwise, sex during pregnancy is safe for you and your baby. Some circumstances make sex during pregnancy unsafe. Pregnant women who have any of these health complications should talk to their provider before having sex:

Usually, a woman can continue sexual activity during pregnancy as long as she feels comfortable. Talk to your health care provider about any specific questions.

Have questions?

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