As a “Birth Partner” the support you give to your pregnant loved one can have a huge effect on how her labour goes and what her experience of birth is, which she will remember for the rest of her life. You may be the pregnant woman’s partner, mum, sister or friend. You need to be comfortable in each other’s presence and be aware of how you will feel and cope when she is in pain and looking to you to support her. Partners in particular can be nervous of being there at the birth, but being a “Birth Partner” is not rocket science! Follow this guide and we will soon have you ready for D-Day!
- Understand what your role REALLY Is:
Women want good support during labour so someone can be there for them in their time of need and vulnerability. Your role is to give support and comfort to your loved one throughout and after labour; she will put her trust in you and value your presence in the room. Don’t say yes if you only want to be there to witness the birth of a baby, as this will not be helpful for her. Giving birth is not a ticket event for spectators, it is a special time when a woman can give full focus to welcoming her baby into the world with her closest person there to support her & share the experience. It may even be stressful for her if she isn’t getting the support she hoped for when she asked you – and all you seem excited about is meeting the new baby. Please bear this in mind that most hospitals will only allow 2 birth partners to accompany a birthing woman onto the Labour suite/Birthing suite.
- Talk with her about her Birth Preferences (Birth Plan):
Most pregnant women will put together a birth plan/ list of preferences. This is her birth and as a birth support person you are there to support her choices – whether you would choose them or not is irrelevant. Encourage her to talk about her feelings as much as possible, because it’s only going to give you more information and tips on how you can be the best support person for her.
- Be supportive during Labour:
Positive mental attitude has a lot to do with how a woman copes in labour. Therefore encouragement is the key. Think about when you watch the London Marathon on TV and some runners are really going through it and look like they want to give up, they are experiencing burning pain and exhaustion but the spectators are so supportive with words of encouragement that it keeps those runners going. We’re not suggesting you jump up and down cheering and waving banners but positive words of encouragement is what’s needed!
- Learn all you can about labour:
Antenatal classes are generally aimed at pregnant women and their birth partners, so if you can go, it’s a great idea. By going, you can get a better feel of what to expect on the day. Independent birth education classes are an alternative to NHS classes - they tend to go much more in depth with non-medical pain relief, working with pain and the role of the support person. If you are unable to attend classes then read any of the pregnancy magazines she will have lying around, these will generally have articles on stages of labour, pain relief etc.
- Look at her face for signals:
These are the little simple things that anyone can do but mean so much at the time. So look at her face and think what you would want if you were in her shoes. Watch her lips, if she is licking them or they are dry, offer sips of water, and pack a bendy straw as these are an ideal way for her drink then you can still hold the cup. (The hospital provides water but may not have a bendy straw).
It’s a good idea to avoid asking her too many questions when labour is getting serious, as this will take her out of her zone of focus. So just offer a drink regularly and she will more than likely want it. It is very important to keep hydrated throughout labour otherwise her body is trying to run on a flat battery, which results in either her contractions not being effective or they slow down all together. For this reason nutritious snacks are also important in early labour to keep up her energy stores.
Other things you can look out for is if she is holding her breath during a contraction; holding your breath makes pain feel more intense. Therefore gently remind her to breathe in and out during the contractions, either by breathing along with her and coaching her through or encouraging her to think of a song and breathe in time to it.
If you see that she looks sweaty, a cool face wash is a great idea. Alternatively use a cooling refreshing body spritz such as our “Cool it Mama!”
Help to keep her hair tied up out of the way with clips, grips and bobbles as any hair flicking on her face or down her back with make her feel more hot and sweaty.
- Mum still needs support after the baby is born!
Once the baby is born, it may not all be over for mum. She will still have the placenta to birth, and an examination to see if she needs any stitches, then the suturing procedure itself (having her stitches), if she needs them. So although there is lots joy in the room for the arrival of baby please remember that mum may still need you for support. Encourage her to have the first hold of her baby after all her hard work, but if she feels too unwell or exhausted make sure you can get really close to her with baby so she can touch and kiss them. Now is not the time to be busy announcing everything to the world on Facebook or Twitter! This is a special time to support the new mum and enjoy meeting your new baby. Most new mums do not feel up to receiving visitors immediately after giving birth, it needs to be what is right for mum and baby following the circumstances of the birth not just what the impatient relatives are wanting. She needs to catch her breath, have something to eat, have a shower, and enjoy meeting her new baby before the visitors appear.