Having a supportive birth partner, whether it’s a spouse, partner, doula or family member, can make all the difference.
- Be prepared
Do your research. Ty to spend some time each night, or at least once a week doing something baby-related to get prepared for the birth and to help keep you both connected. Talk through the birth preferences together. You can also talk to other new parents and do some reading about birth.
- Attend antenatal classes together
Birth preparation classes, hypnobirthing classes or a couples workshop… an activity where you both participate. Preparing together for the baby’s arrival will strengthen your relationship, and it means you will be able to support each other better on that day.
- Understand what support she wants and needs
Try to understand what is most important for her during this physical and emotional process. She may want you to talk on her behalf to the birth team, she may want a massage, or encouraging words. She may need you to hold her hand or stand next to her. Be aware that her needs might change as her labour progresses and you both need to adapt. At times during labour she might like emotional and physical support, but there might be other times when she would like to be left alone to help her focus. Discuss together what kind of support she wants beforehand so you are both very clear on what will make things more manageable. Try to really listen to what she needs on the day. It can be easier said than done but you will need to be intuitive and try and understand what she needs and when. Especially if the intensity of labour is too much to express it well herself.
- Take care of yourself
Sometimes birth partners feel overwhelmed or unwell during labour and birth. Often, it is because they are dehydrated or didn’t take any food, so keep some snacks on hand, have a water bottle with you and have extra layers of clothes because sometimes you can feel cold.
- Make memories for her
Consider documenting the moment with photos and videos. While she might be hesitant to have pictures taken of such an intimate, and often intense moment, you can always delete them. It’s a better option than looking back and regretting not having any photos or videos. Make sure to have a conversation beforehand about what kind of documentation is acceptable so you’re not doing anything that will upset her.
- Manage your own fear
If you’re overwhelmed by the process, then you won’t be in a position to help her. Mentally prepare yourself by watching positive birth videos beforehand so you’ll know what labour looks and sounds like. Take breaks. Adrenaline is contagious. Go for a walk, make yourself a hot drink to slow down and support her better.
- Give her company and distract her
Some partners time the mother’s contractions with an app, but the more she focuses on the contraction, the more painful it will seem, possibly causing her to tense up and not dilate. When labour starts you should both do whatever you would normally do at that time, that may be sleeping or going out for a walk together in the early stages of labour, listen to music or read together. Keep track of contractions, but don’t focus on them unless they appear to be coming on much quicker than expected. You will notice when they are changing. You can encourage her to keep active during labour and help her move about or change positions so she feels more comfortable. You could also offer to massage her back and shoulders, wipe her face with a cold flannel, or simply give her a reassuring hug, look into her eyes… Eye contact is a simple but effective way of keeping channels of communication open. You might also find you need to back off a bit if she needs space. Ask what she would prefer. If you are upbeat and confident in her ability to give birth, this will really help encourage and support her. Words are powerful. Tell her how much you love her, how well she is doing, how beautiful she is. Also respect her wishes if she asks you to be quiet. Encourage her to use any relaxation and breathing techniques you have learnt, perhaps by doing them with her. She might not be able to see what is happening as the baby is being born. So help to motivate her by telling her what is happening and when you can see the baby’s head.
- If it is not a homebirth, make it feel like home
Women labour best when they are comfortable and relaxed. Create a lovey atmosphere around her: make sure the room is warm with dimmed lights, candles (real and with batteries) and also have eye mask handy. Have hot water bottle to help release back pain and a tennis ball for massages. Make sure to pack extra pillows, easy snacks like fruit, granola bars and juice and an extra layer of clothes for both of you. Make a playlist of her favourite songs, hypnobirthing downloads or podcasts that you can listen to or give her earplugs. Keep everything else quiet in the room, no one talking If she is planning a home birth you can help set up everything she needs at home, whether that’s a access to shower, birthing pool or somewhere comfy for her. On the day you could offer to get her a hot drink or bring her something to eat. When a woman is in labour her mammalian animal senses are on high alert, she will only relax and give birth if she feels safe. If she does not feel safe, if she feels fear, she will go into sympathetic nervous system dominance and freeze, fight or flight reactions, flood her body with adrenaline and stall or switch off her labour.
- Be an advocate
Be there, know what she wants. Hold space for her. Understand what she needs with clear and loving assertive communication. Support her decisions even when they are different to her original birth preferences. Help her explaining to the midwives what she would like and you may also need to explain to her any new information from them. Consider talking about what you expect from each other during the birthing process. Support her decisions, even if they’re different from what’s in her birth plan. She might want to choose a different type of pain relief, for example.
- Prepare for postpartum
You will both be too exhausted to do much, but there are a few key things you can have ready and waiting for your arrival home. Nourishment is key, so prepare meals she can easily digest like stews, chicken broth, lentil soup with warm spices and store them in the freezer so all you have to do is stick them in the oven, and stock the fridge so you don’t have to shop for a while. If your baby makes an early appearance, ask a friend or neighbour if they could do the shopping for you: give them a list or order online and have them delivered, and leave a spare key so your friend can get in, and you’ll have a fully stocked fridge when you get home.
- Be flexible
Be prepared to be flexible. No two labours are the same and, although you can prepare, you will need to adapt to whatever is working or not working during labour. It’s possible that everything will go to plan but you might also find that an urgent medical situation arises and alters the course of the labour. If this happens, tell her what’s happening if you can and continue to encourage and reassure her. This will help her feel more in control of the situation. You might be waiting a long time for her labour to progress, or you may have to make quick decisions based on medical advice and her best interests. Be prepared to be flexible on the day and go with the flow.
- Give yourself a pat on the back too
Being a birth partner can be an incredibly rewarding experience. Yet it can also be nerve wracking and emotionally draining. As well as congratulating her on the new arrival, don’t forget to take some time out for yourself afterwards and talk to a friend or family member about it. Make sure you give yourself some recognition for the part you have played in the baby’s birth too. You may benefit from sharing feelings with other expectant fathers you met in antenatal classes.
PHYSICAL TIPS TO HELP HER OVERCOME HER FEARS
- Eye gaze (staring)
- Slow breathing down – mimic breathing so she can copy – deepening the inhale, lengthen exhale, focus on a long exhale
- Breathe through the nose as long as possible
- Single pointed focus on breath
- Relax facial muscles especially jaw, lips, throat – relaxes pelvis, vulva and cervix
- Do a body tension check and purposefully relax tight muscles, use out breath to relax muscles
- Make sound on exhale, low tones (sip water using a straw regularly)
- Maintain eye gaze, or ventral hug (chest to chest/full frontal) for 60 seconds plus – generates Oxytocin
- Continue single pointed focus on eye gaze, breathing, drumming (anything)
- She may begin to take her focus inward – ideally to a pre-prepared inner sanctum / secret garden / sacred temple if you don’t disturb her
- If she doesn’t shift her focus inward, then continue single pointed focus and suggest masturbation, kissing, skin to skin
- Alone time, re-centre focus and commune with baby
- Spiral hip movements, if upright
- Encourage sleep between contractions
- Encourage shower or bath
- Massage where ever she says
I teach a Couples Workshop called HOLISTIC BIRTH REHEARSAL. It is held monthly at different venues in London. I also offer it privately at your home. You’ll learn physical and emotional tools to become an amazing birth partner!
For more info please click here