Birth partners play an essential role throughout childbirth, beginning in the antenatal period, during labour and throughout the postnatal period. Research has shown women who have a birth partner who provides continuous, one-to-one support, can increase their chances of a natural vaginal birth, decrease the need for pain relief & help to have a satisfying birth experience.
Whatever type of birth you have, having some one you know and trust by your side will help.
Your birth partner can be your partner, mother, sister , friend, a doula or whoever you choose to be a part of this special journey.
Some partners may feel like a ‘spare part’ during the labour and birth, but rest assured your presence is welcomed by both the mother and the staff. Partners play a vital part in the birth experience.
Something simple like holding a hand, wiping a brow or rubbing their back during labour can really help. Being there is the most important thing.
Ways to help you prepare beforehand.
*Be informed : Read books, talk to other parents, attend antenatal classes, ask questions. Be a part of the whole journey.
You may need to be an advocate for her in labour, so it is important you are aware of birth preferences beforehand. Perhaps do out a birth preference list/ birth plan together so you both know what are their wishes. Remember that no two labours are the same and understand sometimes it is best to expect the unexpected and know plans may need to adapt. Be flexible
*Pack a small bag for yourself for the labour. You may wish to pack change for car park, change of t-shirt or clothes ( button front top easier for skin to skin), snacks, drinks, toiletries, mobile phone and a charger.
* Encourage and be involved in a healthy lifestyle in pregnancy. Eating well and keeping active.
* Know the route and journey time to the hospital and know where her chart and bags are kept.
Practical ways to help during labour:
Encourage them with their breathing techniques, slow steady breaths in, long slow breaths out. Relax the jaw.
Hold her hand if she wishes (ladies cut your nails).
Positive affirmations can help relax and empower the labouring mother, they help release endorphins, the body’s natural pain reliever. Example of affirmations : may simply be I’m here with you, you are not alone, I’m so proud of you, you are doing wonderful, baby is getting nearer, you can do it.
Massage her lower back and shoulders (note she may love this but also can become sensitive during labour and tell you to stop). Might be handy to pack a bit of her regular moisturiser or body oil/lotion to massage into skin. You do not want to be trying new products on her skin in labour.
Maintain eye contact. Stroke her forehead, Whisper in her ear and kiss if you wish if you are her partner.
Kissing can also increase oxytocin levels which can speed up labour.
Try to stay calm and relaxed where possible, this will have a positive effect on her.
You may need to be an advocate for her if she is distressed etc, this is why its important you are aware of her wishes.
Reminder her to change positions regularly and stay upright where possible.
Distraction is great way of passing the time in labour, which can be particularly long especially on first babies. So have the chats & giggles between contractions. If at home go for walks, watch television or run a bath.
Time contractions, especially when at home, so you know how labour is progressing.
Reminder her to keep eye on babies movements throughout labour also.
Give her sips of water to maintain hydration, which is really important in labour. Have small snacks ready.
Have a face cloth handy to wipe her brow.
Ask yourself the questions do I want to cut the cord, there is no pressure to do same.
Do you want to do skin- to-skin after mom has done it.
Also think how much you want to see, don’t get too close if it’s going to make you feel faint.
Being a birth partner can be an incredibly rewarding experience. You will surprise yourself how much inner strength you will get .Remember to enjoy it, it is an amazing experience to share.
💕Remember just being there is enough.
Lorna, Midwife & mom of 4.