To all you birth partners out there; if you are even on this page, seeking out how to be a good birth partner, then chances are, you are already well on your way.
But hey, it never hurts to be too prepared right? It’s common for birth partners (especially when they are also partners in crime to their baby mama) to feel a bit anxious about the birth too you know
Maybe you don’t like hospitals or you worry about the sight of blood. Maybe you want to be there for the birth of your child but are thinking that you might actually be more useful at the pub nursing a whisky and checking your watch every 2 seconds. All real life things I know my birth partner was feeling at one point.
In my work as a Hypnobirthing teacher in East London, I meet loads of amazing birth partners to be and there are some common themes that crop up when I ask them how THEY want to be as a birth partner.
They want to feel useful
They want to know how to be the best support possible
They want to do anything they can to shoulder some of the responsibility and to give mama a break.
A big part of what we do in Hypnobirthing is encourage an open channel of communication, to create a clearly well-defined role for the birth partner. I offer hints and tips along the way for them to cherry pick from.
With that in mind, I have prepared here for you my top 10 tips to help YOU be a brilliant birth partner (aka your survival handbook
Be there for her
Hey, you already are but don’t take for granted how important that is to Mama. This needn’t wait until the birth either. Did you know as a parent to be you are entitled to take time away from work for antenatal appointments? So whether it’s a scan or a tour of the birth centre. You can be there to share the experience too and hold her hand if she gets a bit anxious. Click here for more info from maternity action
If it’s possible to do so, I actively encourage you to take a good antenatal course together. You will learn valuable information about how to prepare for the birth, what’s happening in a Woman’s body when she gives birth AND what to expect along the way
It will give you a confidence boost and help you to both feel as prepared as possible.
A good course will empower you to investigate your options and make informed choices about the birth rather than tell you there is a ‘right’ or ‘best’ way to birth. It will also help you deal with common ‘what ifs’
Investigate what is in your area, depending on your needs and what’s available locally, this may come at an extra cost and at a time where you are thinking about saving money this might sting. This is one of the (if not the) most important days of your lives. So weigh up a couple of hundred pounds for a good antenatal course versus the cost of your wedding or a friends stag do or a weekend at Glastonbury…I will just leave that there with you as food for thought!
This one is a game changer for sure
First of all, listen to her, what does she want? For example, You might have imagined your baby being born in a hospital and suddenly your partner is thinking about a homebirth (is she frigging mental?! I hear you ask)
Chances are your partner in crime has been doing a lot of research into the matter and might have an interesting case to put forward to hear her out before dismissing anything and do your own research if you want more clarification on something.
Then ask questions
How does she want to feel when she gives birth? What does she want in terms of support from you? What does she want to put in your birth plan and so on.
You can also be involved in asking questions in meetings with your key care providers to help you both make informed choices.
A BIG one.
In order for women to Birth efficiently we need to feel SAFE.
Part of this will be discovering where Mama feels safest birthing, hospital, home or birth centre. So it’s good to open out those conversations.
The other part can come from you, protecting her space when she births. Create a bubble where she can birth, in as much privacy as possible and feel safe and secure.
Admittedly this is more open to interpretation, it’s an energetic thing.
But it could be as simple as asking someone to politely leave the room if you want a bit of space to make a decision together.
More tips for male birth partners here
Support and encourage
Be her rock. There are soooo many different ways you can do this and I suggest asking your birth partner what she wants you to do. Here are a few to get you started
– Learn massage techniques to soothe her during and after contractions. This is great for
encouraging production of endorphins which are our pain relieving hormone!
– Practice breathing techniques together, they will keep you calm too!
– Be on hand with a cold flannel and a cool drink. The ideal birth environment is pretty toasty and Mama will be working physically hard so it can get a bit sweaty. These both can help her stay cool and hydrated.
Keep your cool.
Women are instinctive creatures at the best of times and these instincts are heightened in pregnancy. If she gets a sniff of you going into panic mode then this could take her focus off birthing and bring it on to you instead.
This activates the thinking part of the brain aka the neocortex and we want to avoid thinking, questioning and decision making as much as possible in birth and focus on breathing and instinctively moving through the sensations. They also call this the birthing zone….baby brain is a real thing you know!
Take a load off for her
Ok, Mama is doing the Lions’ share when it comes to the birth and there is no getting out of that BUT, there are lots of things that you can do to help take a load off her plate when it comes to the birth. You could be in charge of what I like to call LOGISTICS, the practical stuff.
– Packing the birth bag and buying any last minute additions.
– Manage the birthing environment to look exactly how she wants it.
-Consider how will you get to your place of birth? Do you need to think about parking? If you are driving make sure you have a car seat.
Use this as an opportunity to have an open conversation with your partner about what they would like in any of these situations.
Remember to look out for you
It’s important that you have some rest too. I always suggest that if labour starts in the night time that while if it feels manageable for a Mama that birth partner gets some sleep so you can be on your A GAME for when stuff ramps up a gear.
Remember to eat and stay hydrated too.
Oooh this is a fave one for me! There is a very special hormone when it comes to birth. It’s called oxytocin (more about that here) the hormone of love, sex and bonding.
Anything that you can do bond with your partner is a massive pro in the run-up to and during the birth. And yeah that does include ruding each other senseless if that works for you both.
It could also be as simple as a cuddle, a massage or going for a walk together.
Bonus points for anything that includes touch. This also releases endorphins – see above!
A few words of encouragement will go a long way. This is not your annual appraisal in the office either, so it’s no time for constructive criticism.
Tell her she is a goddess, tell her she is freaking amazing and you are in awe of her feminine power after each contraction remind her you are one step closer to meeting your tiny human!
Keep an eye out for anything which might knock her confidence. Perhaps an insensitive comment from someone or it’s a long labour and you sense that Mama is getting tired.
For the vast majority of the couples I work with, the birth partner is also the baby’s father but it’s not a given!
If you are reading this as a partner, sister, mother, friend or whatever, then 90 per cent of this still applies to you. Just leave out the bits that don’t!
If you would like to know more about the Hypnobirthing courses I offer in Walthamstow and how birth partners leave feeling informed, confident and fully prepared then get in touch for more info or a free 15-minute phone consultation.