How Birth Partners Can Help During Labour and Birth
If this is your first baby, as the birth partner, you might be intimidated throughout the entire pregnancy, let alone the birth. Here are some suggestions of what your partner will need from you, and how you can support her through the birth experience:
Love and Acceptance
The labour and birthing room is not the place to relive past arguments and to voice your fears. You are there for her and you need to make sure that she knows that you love her and that you support her with anything that she needs from you during this birth.
Kiss her often, tell her that she’s beautiful and strong and capable. Tell her how proud you are of her. These words and physical comfort mean so much to a labouring woman.
Consistent Emotional Support
Labouring women can become quite enraged when they hear their partner’s say things like: “I’m so exhausted, I need to take a break.’ While it’s probably true that you do need a break, it is thoughtless to voice your needs where the labouring woman can hear you. She is in pain, she has carried your baby for nine months and she is facing one of the hardest experiences of her life. Your needs are not greater than hers.
If you need a break and a chance to eat something, take aside your caregiver, nurse or your doula if you have one and whisper that you need a quick break. Make sure that your partner is being cared by someone in the room before you take care of yourself. Once you have eaten, come back ready to help again.
A Safe Place For Birth
You will need to make the labour room or the birth centre a place where the labouring woman feels safe. There are simple things that you can do that will make a huge difference.
You can play music that is soothing for labour and birth. You should have already agreed on music choices, but it will be up to you to change the music every once in so often so that the people attending the birth don’t hear the same songs over and over and over again. Many times, the labouring woman doesn’t always hear the music, so change it from time to time to please everyone else.
You can put up any photos or charts that you’ve planned to bring with you. You can help the woman dress into the T-shirt or other clothes that she was planning on wearing if she isn’t already doing so.
You can light candles if that has been approved by medical staff.
You can tape your birth plan on the door reminding people of your choices for birth. You can make sure that the door is closed if people who enter the room forget to close it.
A Buffer To The Outside World
When women labour, they move from their conscious brain that thinks and processes information to a primitive mind state. There, a woman focuses within and does what she must to do the job of birth. This place is where she is able to birth her baby. If your partner is constantly asked questions, if you constantly ask her questions, or if she is worried about something or someone, she will not be able to get to the place in her mind and her body where she can birth her baby.
Birth partners need to be the labour woman’s buffer to the outside world. They need to know the birth plan. They need to be able to speak for the woman when someone asks a question. They need to be able to triage the information so that only the most important is asked to the labouring woman.
As an example, here are some circumstances that the birth partner will be able to handle without interrupting the labouring woman:
• General history questions
• What she’d like to eat for meals
• If she’d like pain medication – this depends upon your birth plan. If the woman wants it, then by all means ask. If she does not want to be asked about the medication, then gently remind the nurse that she will ask for it if she wants it, and not to bother her.
If a health care provider would like to discuss interventions and you are not favorable towards them, it would be your job to ask the questions about negative consequences of the intervention, if there are other options, if the intervention can be delayed, if they are necessary, if there is a serious concern that needs to be addressed.
If the concern is serious, by all means talk to the labouring woman about it. If the interventions are not necessary and you don’t want them, decline politely, and let the woman labour on.
Someone to take Care of Her Physical Needs
You need to be the person who gives the labouring woman sips of water, snacks to eat to keep up her energy levels. There is no physical way that any of us would walk for eight hours without stopping for a drink and a snack now and then. The same is for labour and birth.
Keep some of your snack food from your labour kit handy and offer the labouring woman some to eat between contractions. She will let you know right away if she wants the food or drink. If she is not interested, keep offering from time to time.
You also need to remind her to pee every hour. A full bladder can slow down the progress of labour and it can increase the pain. Set reminders on your phone to remind her to pee.
If you are bringing in arnica and/or rescue remedy with you into the labour room (after prior approval, of course!) you are going to be the person to help the woman remember to take it.
At times in labour, a woman wants to use short phrases and one word answers if asked a question. Before birth, you can come up with hand signals that mean some of the following: yes, no, quiet, stop, keep going, water or others that you might think are handy. You would be the person to help the caregiver remember what the hand signals are.
You can remind the labouring woman about the sensual ways to release stress during birth. These are touch, water, temperature, movement, rhythm, music and candles. You can rock with the woman as she labours. Let her hang her arms around your neck and help her to sway back and forth to the music. You can bring warm or cold cloths (to her preference) to place on her forehead. You can hold her and stroke her hair.
Using positive words, tell her what a great job she is doing. Help her to vocalize through the contractions by humming, or saying the word OPEN or SURRENDER.
Dr. Melanie Beingessner is a pregnancy and pediatric-focussed chiropractor, a breastfeeding counselor, an infant massage instructor and a mom of three awesome kids.