The Expectant Dad's Handbook: a book review


I don’t usually like parenting advice books. I had a bad experience of reading one when I was pregnant with my first child, and I believe some directives within many parenting books are potentially harmful, whilst exploiting the vulnerability of parents to be or new parents.  But I’ve now had two heartwarming surprises! The first was Sarah Ockwell-Smith’s book Baby Calm, and I have just finished the Expectant Dad's Handbook, by Dean Beaumont

I loved Dean’s book. In my opinion it is absolutely perfect, and a must read for all expectant Dads. Really. It is easy to read, engaging, and is packed with common sense. I can almost hear Dean's voice, as though he's just chatting to another man, whose partner is pregnant.  I found the case study format of the information in the book  so useful, and can imagine that this too will appeal to Dads-to-be, excited or apprehensive, as it seems to bring each topic to life.

In fact, here are so many positives about the book, I can't mention them all. The greatest has got to be that it’s non-prescriptive. Dean gives inside information about certain situations, and then offers suggestions, which are absolutely spot on. He uses humour too, and diagrams wherever possible. I particularly like the drawing that demonstrates the effect of stress on labour progress! Brilliant, and perfectly true!

Rather than advice, Dean offers tips. He encourages Dads to stay positive, and that even if they are worried at any stage, to try not to display anxiety to their partner. ‘She will SMELL your fear’ Dean warns, and that can disturb labour.  Another recommendation for expectant Dads is for them not to think they can ‘fix it’. Meaning, men instinctively try to solve every problem by 'fixing it', but when they are with their partner in labour it isn't going to be possible. Dean encourages Dads not to 'take over' during the birth, but to try to focus on supporting his partner. But Dean does encourage Dad to be an advocate, if necessary. If Dad feels concerned about a procedure about to be performed, and feels his partner isn't ready, he suggests  ‘gently ask the person to wait a moment’… so therefore speaking on behalf his partner, being her voice.  Dean explains to readers that sometimes (and this is so true) women in labour say the opposite to what they've decided on pre-labour. For example, they may ask for an epidural, when they were adamant beforehand that they didn't want one. This is confusing for Dads to be, as he is torn between knowing what his partner was sure about, and what she is now pleading for! Dean suggests an agreed  ‘code word’ in advance, that if his partner says, it means I HAVE CHANGED MY MIND!'

One very important aspect of the book is about the 'cascade of intervention', choice, and decision making. Dean, this is brilliant. I can't begin to tell parents how important it is for parents to really understand the evidence behind, and implications of, some of the procedures offered to them, or choices they make. Perfect Dean.

The only suggestion I would offer for any reprint of the book in the future, would be to mention research physiology and purpose of labour pain, and support couples to work with labour pain, rather than trying to getting rid of it. The language we use is important here, too.

But I am totally impressed with this book, so much so that we have added it to the resources for Dads on the new, parent-led Birth in East Lancs website, and I will recommend it to all expectant Dads, whenever I can.

Congratulations Dean, and thank you for making a positive step towards supporting women and families to have a positive birth experience, which holds the potential to influence the world.

Readers can find Dean's website here, and on Twitter via @daddynatal

The book can be purchased from Amazon.