Okay, so you're the one carrying the baby and doing the whole birthing bit. But spare a thought for your man, since recent research from Oxford University suggests fathers can be left so horrified by witnessing a difficult birth that their long-term mental health may be affected.

Even if the birth is relatively straightforward, he may still be upset to see you in pain. Here's how you can help him manage his expectations when you're expecting.

Get him involved

Independent childbirth educator and M&B expert Gabrielle Targett recommends you encourage your partner to attend active birth classes with you. These classes focus on hands-on skills like massage, breathing and active labour positions, as well as natural pain relief options, that he can use in labour to assist you.

Teaching your partner what the stages of labour involve, and how you may react in terms of breathing, movements and noises, also prepare him for your labour day or night.

If you're going to watch some labour films, try to watch normal vaginal births that show how women can be very calm and peaceful during the stages of labour.

"I made my husband watch the documentary series One Born Every Minute,' says Victoria Clark, 30, who's mum to Alexander, 11 weeks. 'It meant he wasn't panicked when things didn't go to plan.'

Make decisions together

In terms of your birth plan, let him know what's most important to you. The traffic lights system works well – green is what you would like to happen, amber is what you want to avoid as far as possible and red is what you absolutely do not want unless it's vital. Draw up your list, including pain relief preferences, and give him a copy to read.

Discuss the 'business end'

Have an honest discussion about whether he wants to see the baby coming out or would prefer to stay firmly up by your head.

It's an important decision, and some men may feel conflicted if they don't think they'll cope, but don't want to let their partner down.

"Many partners may choose not to look, but when the time comes they can't not look," says Targett.

Focus on the practical

There's plenty your partner can do to help on the big day, including having water and snacks at the ready for when you need them.

"My partner and I created a labour playlist together, and it was a great way to chat about the birth and have some quality couple time,' says Shelley Marsden, 34, who's mum to Dylan, eight months.

Reassure him

You may go into a different mental zone during labour, which can be unsettling for your partner.

'When women are in good labour, they're brimming with positive labour hormones and, for the most part, look like they're off with the fairies. Then comes the swearing and yelling,' says Targett.

Your partner needs to acknowledge that he will see you experience all sort of emotions with the intensity, so discuss this beforehand and assist him to be more accepting of it, and that you don't necessarily need it to be stopped.

Allocate time out

If your partner is the squeamish type, he may feel nervous about being present at the birth. 'Reassure him that if at any time it all gets too much for him, he can take a walk, get some fresh air, a drink and some food, or talk with a midwife,' says Targett. This also means you don't have to worry about looking after him.

What's in his labour bag?

Suggest he packs:

Snacks for both of you. After all, a man with an empty stomach is no help to anyone.

His phone and charger because you don't know how long you'll be there.

A list of contact details to update family and loved ones.

A change of clothes – or at least underwear – to save him going home to freshen up. Also, some boardshorts if you are having a water birth so that he can be in the pool with you if you like.

A camera to capture your baby's first moments.