So, your partner is due to have a baby! Congratulations! You’ve probably been Googling ‘how to be a good birthing partner’ and ended up here. Are we right?
You’ve plotted the fastest routes to the hospital for both rush and quiet hours. You have made playlists for each stage and you have a full list of the all important numbers for letting everyone know about the new addition to the family.
But… do you really feel ready? Do you still secretly wish that you could wake up and it would all be over?
Fear not! Here are The Honest Midwife’s top 10 tips for how to be a good birthing partner.
And, don’t forget we have the live chat button on the website where you can ask a midwife questions directly for general advice – you are not on your own.
1. It’s about you too
Firstly, It is important to remember that this whole chapter in your life is not just about your partner and baby – its about you too! Whichever antenatal classes you both decide to attend, ensure that they include a focus on partners, too. Get involved with the learning activities provided as they will help in the long run.
2. You are in safe hands
Try not to stress too much about the technical stuff. Whether you are planning to have your baby at home or in hospital you will have trained professional people who are there throughout to keep your partner and baby safe and well. If you do feel you are worrying, drop The Honest Midwife a message – she’ll reassure you!
3. What’s the plan? Remember, it is good to be flexible
Many couples find it helpful in preparation to put together a birth plan and it can be a great way of getting you to think about things. However, flexibility can often serve you well and even the best laid plans often need to be tweaked at the last minute depending on the situation. So, be open to the fact that although your partner has said she definitely didn’t want a particular thing in labour, make sure you listen to her if she suddenly says that she has changed her mind.
4. Keep your strength up – you will need it
Keep your strength up! Throughout the day / night the focus will be on mother and baby and it is easy for you to jump on that band wagon and forget about yourself. Don’t neglect to keep well fed and watered as you may find that when it comes to the crunch and your baby is literally about to enter the world you feel like you are about to pass out! Not good and, let me tell you, midwives tend to just step over passed out birth-partners rather than mop their brow. Harsh but true! Pack some energy sweets, they are great for both you and your girl for that much needed sugar rush.
5. Start the clock – let her know you are there throughout
Contractions can often feel like they are never ending. Many women find it really helpful to know how long is left before “this one ends.” Rather than counting how many contractions are happening, get a feel for the length of the contractions and support her by telling her “only another 15 seconds and this will start to fade.” Talking her through the contractions can really help to keep things in control. Encourage her to remember her breathing techniques she has learned during hypnobirthing practice but if you haven’t taken those classes the easiest thing to remember is encourage nice big, deep breaths throughout the contraction.
6. Let everyone around you do the work!
Trust those around you. It is really hard to watch a loved one go through pain and it is easy to become stressed. Remember the people caring for you have been through very lengthy and vigorous training and know when to recognise if things are not right. More people in the room often just means that there are more jobs to be done and a few more brain cells needed. They have your back, all you need to do is hold your partner’s hand and reassure her that it’s all going to be ok!
7. Keep calm and have a baby
Get some good movies in to watch at home before you go into the hospital. Evolution designed us to labour and birth in dark caves where we were safe from predators. The two main hormones in action during labour are Oxytocin and Adrenaline. Oxytocin is needed for contractions and is released when you feel calm and safe. When women in early labour come into hospital they often release adrenaline as they are not as calm and this can cause labour to halt. Your home is your cave and where you are most relaxed. Encourage your partner to watch a film or episode of her favourite programme, bake a cake (we midwives love a good cake). The longer you are at home the more of the work you have already done before you get to the delivery room.
8. Who doesn’t love a gadget!
TENS stands for transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation and is a small hand held device that send tiny electrical pulses to the four pads. It is believed these pulses not only encourage the body to release its own natural pain killing endorphins but work to block the pain signals travelling to the brain. Many women also report finding the sensation a welcome distraction.
9. Patience is a virtue – possess it if you can
Be prepared for a long wait. First time babies rarely come within the one hour it takes to watch “One Born Every Minute”, so assume the process will take a long while and if baby comes quickly it’s a bonus. Induction of labour can take a fair few days and is dependant on many things including the other women on the unit. Women often find that they have been told “you’ll be next” only to see the lady in the next bed go before. What that means is that the lady who jumped the queue clinically needs to have her baby before you. Harsh but true – at that point she needs to come first.
10. Hang in there – all will be well
Watching someone you love work hard as they try to bring a tiny human into the world can be hard going. It is important to remember that at the end, however your baby chooses to make its entrance, if your partner is having a water birth, a c-section or forceps delivery, this is the point that you become parents. It may not turn out to be the exact chain of events that you wanted but you are about to have a baby put in your arms – how AMAZING is that?