Your birth partner is there to support you and your choices during labour. Talk to him/her during your pregnancy so they know what you would like to happen during the birth and can speak up for you if needed.
Birth partners have an important job to do, not just to be there to watch baby be born. They can help you to relax, run a bath for you, massage your back, remind you to eat and drink, help you change positions, support your choices as labour progresses. The NCT have plenty of useful information here to help you with your choices.
- Birth Support Tip #1: Understand What Your Role REALLY Is. One of the most important things to understand is the reason why women seek and need good support during labour: so someone can be there for them in their time of need and vulnerability. Don’t say yes if you only want to be there to witness the birth of the baby, as this will not be helpful for the woman giving birth. 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. The role of the birth partner is to give support and comfort to the birthing woman throughout and after labour in many different ways, some of which are listed below. You should also confirm with the woman you are supporting as to what her expectations are of your support, as this will vary greatly from woman to woman.
- Birth Support Tip #2: Talk With Her About Her Birth Preferences (Birth Plan). Most pregnant women will put together a written birth plan (also known as birth preferences or birth intentions).
- Birth Support Tip #3: Choose Encouragement, Not Sympathy During Labour. Sympathy is a wonderful thing to offer, however during labour, encouragement is the key. If the woman you are supporting is struggling to work through a contraction, what effect and outcome do you think you would get from these two scenarios: a) Scenario one: Labouring Woman: “It’s all too hard, I can’t do it, it just hurts so much…” Support Person: “Awwwww you poor thing… I know it’s hard, isn’t it? Maybe you could have just a little bit of pain relief?” Result: Woman in labour likely says something like, ‘Heck YES! Get the doctor NOW!’ as she’s likely feeling vulnerable in a moment of weakness and fatigue. b) Scenario two: Labouring Woman: “It’s all too hard, I can’t do it, it just hurts so much…” Support Person: “It looks like you’re doing some really hard work, but I can also see that you are doing a really great job. I know you can do this – you are doing this! Let’s do the next few contractions together.” (breathe with her) Result: Woman in labour likely starts to believe in herself, and that her support team believe in her. Every woman in labour will hit a crisis point or wall, where she feels she can’t go on.
- Birth Support Tip #4: Attend Antenatal Education With Her. Most antenatal classes allow support people to come along, so if you can go, it’s a great idea. By going, you can get a better feel of what to expect and you may even see a birth video or DVD to prepare you for the event (which you could even look at doing privately if you like – you can purchase and hire such DVD’s). Independent birth education classes will cost you, because private classes tend to go much more in depth and work with smaller groups. Free Bumps Birth & Beyond Classes are available through your local children’s centre.
- Birth Support Tip #5: If You Feel Anxious Or Panicky. Take A Break Even if you have been in labour yourself, supporting someone else in labour can still have you breaking out in a sweat and wondering what the end result of the labour is going to be. Don’t feel bad – simply give yourself some fresh air and a break. The labouring woman can quickly tune in on how others are feeling or acting in labour and it can throw her focus off doing what she needs to do – especially if she sees that her support person is looking at her as if she is surely about to die! The labouring woman should only be worrying about herself, not holding her support team together too. So if you think you aren’t coping or need a break, the best idea is to get out of the room until you feel more composed
- Birth Support Tip #6: Watch Her Face For Signals. Her face is a very good indicator of things she might need. Watch her lips, if she is licking them or they are dry, offer sips of water, ideally in a drink which has a bendy straw in it, so you can hold it for her. It’s a good idea to avoid asking her too many questions when labour is getting serious, so with things like offering water, there’s no need to ask, just offer it regularly and she will likely want it – if not she will just not have any or say no. It’s very hot and sweaty work being in labour and fluids are very important to keep hydrated through frequent drinks – alternating between water and sports drinks are ideal. Other things you can look out for is if she is holding her breath. A gentle reminder to breathe in and a big one out – it will keep the oxygen circulating around her body, and to her baby. If you see that she looks sweaty, a cool face washer is a great idea. If she is having a contraction, DO NOT start touching her or talking to her. Intensity requires focus and drawing on inner resources; don’t distract her from that. If you’re already applying pressure with a heat pack or other pain relief method this is usually fine to keep going during a contraction unless she asks you to stop.
- Birth Support Tip #7: Watch Her Body Language. It’s a natural reaction to tense up when we feel pain. There is a nasty cycle common in labour: Fear → Tension → Pain Some common areas where women tend to tense up in labour which you will probably be able to see is in the jaw, shoulders, hands and feet. If you see her tensing her shoulders up tight (i.e. scrunching them up), at first instance you can try touching her on the shoulder or running your hand down her shoulder. If this doesn’t work, try the above with a gentle, quiet voice, suggesting to her to relax/let go of her shoulders. The key is to be as observant as possible and putting together the clues she is giving you as to what she wants. Be in the journey with her, be by her side and be encouraging.
- Birth Support Tip #8: Help Keep The ‘Environment’ Going. In her birth preferences/intentions, the woman may have specified some environmental factors she might like, for example aromatherapy, music, dimmed lights and quiet voices. In early labour it’s easy to keep these things topped up and going, but later in labour when things are more serious and she needs more of your undivided attention, they can be forgotten, so do the best as you can. Turn lights off when possible, the darkness is more conducive to labour. Keep voices quiet and if they have music, keep it going even if you are not sure which CD she wants. The little things do matter!
- Birth Support Tip #9: Make Sure You and/or Other Support People Take Regular Breaks. While mum has hormones keeping her body going in labour, you have nothing extra to keep you going so make sure you have regular breaks, as do the other support people. Its amazing what even a 5 minute power walk can do, or some fresh air, a coffee – anything to get your body stretched and refreshed. Don’t feel bad taking a break, you are only human and this is the benefit of having extra support people at birth. Support people can also benefit from giving each other massages, as it can be achy work supporting women with your bodies in certain positions for long periods!
- Birth Support Tip #10: Keep Supporting Her After The Baby Is Born. Once the baby is born, lots of attention is on the baby, so make sure mum has lots of attention too. Remember she will still have to birth the placenta, will still be having contractions and may still experience some pain or exhaustion. She may like a drink, her face wiped, hair out of her face and once everything is settled, she will probably be starving! So offer her a cuppa and ask her if she wants something to eat. Mum needs to feel special too – it’s exciting seeing the new baby but don’t forget mum! – See more at: http://www.bellybelly.com.au/birth/ten-tips-on-being-a-great-birth-support-person/