So you’ve been asked to be a birthing partner? Congratulations! Supporting someone through birth can be a wonderful experience…
However, you might be feeling a little nervous about your role.
Concerned about whether you’ll get it right? Hoping that you’ll help rather than hinder? Wondering how you’ll react when the time comes and this labour gets real?!
Don’t worry, it’s totally normal.
“Whilst being a birth partner may seem potentially complicated, it really comes down to being involved throughout pregnancy, gaining knowledge, being organised and prepared and providing positive, calm, constant support throughout the labour and birth.” says Sian from About Birth and Babies. “I’ve put together a series of tips to help birthing partners to keep the experience super S.I.M.P.L.E.”
Read on for Sian’s expert tips on how to be the best birthing partner you can.
Birth can be physically and emotionally demanding. To help enhance your partner’s calm and tranquillity through labour, aim to create spa like surroundings in the birthing room. Think low lighting and essential oils in a bath, a massage blend, a burner or spray bottle. Talk in soft, calm voices, wear comfortable clothes, maintain privacy and play tranquil music.
Create and download a playlist. Search using terms such as ‘hypnobirthing’ and ‘relaxation’.
Not all aromatherapy oils are safe to use during pregnancy and birth but there are plenty that are. They all have their own unique properties so can be useful at different times. Take a look at this guide produced by BabyCentre https://www.babycentre.co.uk/a1038554/aromatherapy-in-pregnancy
Get involved with researching pregnancy, labour and birth together. Join your partner at her scans and midwife appointments and play an active role in helping her to create a birth wish list that’s right for her. Making decisions together helps to create a strong bond and shared view of how you’d like your ideal birth to be. It also helps to research what may happen if things don’t quite go as you had hoped, so that you don’t panic if intervention is needed.
Attending antenatal classes together is a great way to find out what to expect, gain knowledge and confidence and feel more empowered and prepared for the decisions ahead. Sian and Ann from About Birth & Babies offer regular in-depth (and award winning!) antenatal classes for couples. They also offer a free Early Pregnancy Class to help couples get started on their parenting journey.
Before attending a course, couples sometimes say they feel anxious about birth and caring for a newborn baby. Through their antenatal courses Sian and Ann dispel fear, impart knowledge and give couples the confidence and tools to have a positive birth experience and a positive start to parenting.
They can also guide you towards excellent resources for further information if you would like it.
About Birth & Babies run Early Pregnancy Classes regularly at Rowan House. Dates of these classes, together with their full list of antenatal courses can be found at www.aboutbirthandbabies.co.uk
M: Massage and Munchies
Everyone loves a massage and during labour it can make a huge difference to your partner’s ability to relax and breathe through contractions. She may prefer not to be touched which happens! Thinking along a hands-on approach though, use massage to help relieve muscle tension and help your partner work with the surges in between providing munchies to keep her energy levels up.
What kind of massage techniques are helpful? Well this depends on whether your partner is tackling a surge or enjoying the respite in between. Massage techniques using hands, massage tools and rebozos are taught during About Birth & Babies antenatal classes which can then be practised thereafter so they become familiar for birth.
Just a few of Sian’s suggestions of snacks to take with you during labour include:
- Cereal bars
- Dried fruit and
- Isotonic/energy drinks.
Remember to only pack things you know your partner likes; now isn’t the time to experiment! Don’t forget to pack items for you as well as your partner.
P: Provide Praise
Let’s face it, whether it’s a natural hypnobirth or an emergency caesarean, birth can be a BIG challenge. A really important part of your role as birth partner is to be her (calm) birthing supporter and advocate. Provide praise often and support mum to move into different birthing positions regularly.
You might also find ‘birth affirmations’ helpful. These are positive thoughts or inspiring sayings. These could be written onto cards and pinned up around the birthing room.
L: Extend Love and Reassurance
Birth brings a real mixed bag of feelings, and it can often be a rollercoaster ride! At some points your partner might be feeling calm and elated, but at others she might feel nervous, frustrated, out of control, even angry or sad. Providing love and reassurance through all these feelings is a wonderful way of simply ‘being there’ for her
And don’t forget yourself! In the midst of birth, it’s easy to forget about your own needs. You can’t provide great support if you’re not feeling 100% so in the late stages of pregnancy get some rest and keep a drinks bottle and snacks handy on the day.
Breathing in rhythm with your partner is a really great way to help keep her calm and focused during the more intensive first stage surges. Encourage her to take deep in-breaths and focus on long slow out-breaths. We suggest breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth ensuring the out breath is longer.
Breathing techniques for the different stages of birth (including the suggestion above) are discussed and practised during About Birth & Babies antenatal classes so they are familiar to you both.
The role of a birth partner is a challenging one, whether you’re supporting your partner at home, in a midwifery led birthing unit or delivery suite. There is much more involved than ‘hand holding’! Keep it S.I.M.P.L.E and enjoy the experience!
“Speak tenderly to them. Let there be kindness in your face, in your eyes, in your smile, in the warmth of your greeting. Always have a cheerful smile. Don’t only give your care, give your heart as well.” Mother Teresa
>> FREE EARLY PREGNANCY CLASS: Sian runs a regular early pregnancy class at Rowan House. Check the events tab on our Facebook page to discover the next date.