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How to be an awesome birth partner

by mem_d (follow)
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Women often want (and need) their partners to be their primary support during birth. Only, what if their partner has no idea how to best do that? What if they’re scared of the responsibility, or unsure how to respond when they see their partner in pain?
Here is a list of five tips to get you from a “deer in headlights” type partner, to the best possible support you can be.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

1. Show affection: 
Women need love during labour. Words and actions which can affirm that will do more for her comfort than any neat pain-relief tricks. Hold her hand. Hug her. Tell her you love her. Tell her she’s doing really well, and you’re proud of her. Rub her back if that’s what she needs, but your presence and affection alone will be a safety net for her

2. Listen to what she wants for her birth, BEFORE she goes into labour: 
If she is adamant she doesn’t want pain relief, don’t offer it to her during labour! It can be so challenging to see your loved one in pain. Remind yourself that this has a purpose, and her request was that you support her, not “fix” her. Read through support techniques before labour, attend childbirth classes with her, and stand by her requests, not your fears.

3. Hire a doula: A doula is a support woman who is experienced in labour and birth. She will be able to help you and reassure you, so that you are able to support your partner without the full responsibility of her emotions resting on your shoulders. A doula’s primary role is to support a birthing woman, however they are also well aware of the importance of a partner’s role. She will endeavour to make sure both you and your partner are cared for, and step in only to guide, reassure, or help when you need to eat or take a toilet break.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

4. Practical support:
 If you don’t have a doula, some practical things you might do in early labour include back rubs, snacks, drinks, and ensuring a functional hot water system! Organise a babysitter, if required, turn off the phones, and keep her environment comfortable and distraction free.

5. Keep calm: 
Trust in her ability to birth. Taking birth classes with her or reading up on labour techniques might help you to help her. Remember, you’re her partner, not her midwife or doctor. You’re not expected to treat her, just to be there for her. If you’re not sure how to do that, re-read points 1-4.

Birth is an intimate process, and people often over-think what is required. Be gentle, smile, offer encouragement, and enjoy being by your partner’s side as she does one of the most powerful things a woman can do.

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Suggest the first thing men do BEFORE their partner becomes pregnant, is check that she actually wants you OR a doulah present at her birth. Some women want as many people as possible present at their birth……some women want an absolute, vitally MINIMAL number of people present. I think there is probably a lot written about the benefits of women being on their own for birthing, that they appreciate going into that "zone" which would seem to me to be absolutely normal/average. Might help a little after the birth too, i.e. having been on your own, might help the husband too. Nothing worse than having the rose coloured glasses ripped off your eyes.
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