There's this stupid 'stereotype' image of men as birth partners (massively reinforced by TV) that makes us think 'sitting on their phone in a corner'.. 'making stupid jokes and unhelpful comments' or 'fainting at the first sign of water, or blood or baby goo!' and this throws up the question 'do we even WANT men at our birth'?
But, every single dad-to-be that I meet on one of our courses is squashing this stereotype time and time again! They WANT to be part of that team around you in labour, they want practical, tangible tools to help both physically and emotionally and if they could do this for you, they would!
The reality is, that actually, men are totally hopeless at giving birth! They are PERFECT however, at protecting your space. In late pregnancy and labour, men's hormones ACTUALLY change, testosterone dips, at they become more primal, more protective!
A huge area of research that has shown massive improvements in outcomes in birth is what we call 'continuity of care' and whilst very few of us have access to this from a midwife perspective, a lot of us will have it in our birth partners! They've been there since the start, they are an expert in YOU, what you feel, how you react, they KNOW you and this makes them the PERFECT person to have by your side during birth.
Below I’ve shared my TOP TIPS for birth partners, what can you actually do to HELP during labour? How can you be a part of the experience, that will be as huge for you as it is for your partner! (P.s. these tips will be helpful for WHOEVER you birth partner is, not just the dads! So if you've got your mum, your wife, your partner, your friend, your sister, whoever, simply having someone who can be HELPFUL and to do it WITH can make the world of difference!)
Be in charge of ALL the logistics. When your partner is in labour, it’s really important from a hormonal perspective that she isn’t stressed or made to feel anxious. By having the car prepacked and full of petrol, knowing the back route to the hospital, having change for parking well in advance will remove any of that stress for your partner in labour, so by taking control of these SIMPLE things you are ACTUALLY helping her labour progress in a more straightforward way!
Be on the same page about what it is you want. Make a birth plan, talk it through during pregnancy, and feel confident to advocate for your partner when she may not feel able to. (This doesn’t mean she can’t change her mind about everything on that ‘plan’ during labour itself) But by both educating yourselves on the options, you will be a great support when the time to make decisions comes!
Be the initial point of contact. ‘Conversation’ stimulates a birthing woman’s neocortex (or the thinking part of her brain) which makes her more likely to produce adrenalin (something we don’t want to happen in labour! more on that here). So be the person that speaks to midwives, doctors, the receptionist, the taxi driver, the person bringing lunch, (whoever) so that your partner can remain as undisturbed as possible during labour.
TURN OFF THE LIGHTS. Women’s bodies produce melatonin in the dark, melatonin is a hormone that essentially ‘increases the power’ of oxytocin, the hormone that is in charge of the WHOLE of labour!
Make your space ‘home’. Wherever you are for the birth, home, birth centre, labour ward, as soon as you have an opportunity, make that space a den, a spa, a nest, a home for your partner. This space needs to feel as safe as it can be! You might put up affirmations, candles, blankets, fairy lights, aromatherapy oils, music, anything that your partner may like!
Breathe with her. If your partner is using a hypnobirthing breathing technique in labour, KNOW WHAT THIS IS! If she’s not, simply breath deeply through the surges with her. If a woman has a ‘wobble’ in labour, which no doubt she will, and loses sight of her breathing, the EASIEST (and least annoying) way to help her find it again, is to simply breathe with her.
Massage- there are many massage techniques that can be helpful in labour, the key is communicating with each other about what feels nice. Have a practice during pregnancy and you can also ask your midwife during labour to show you other things that may help. You make like to try a ‘soft touch’ massage, like stroking your partners back. Sacral pressure which involves pushing agains your partners back during a surge which many women find very comforting (ask your midwife to show you where to push if you’re not sure). A shoulder or foot massage to help relieve tension and encourage relaxation. All physical contact from someone she knows and love during labour can massively help the body to produce oxytocin!
Speak positively. Your partner may not need you speak much at all during labour, but if she wants that gentle reassurance, keep your language positive, tell her she is incredible, tell her you love her, remind her of her power! Whem women are in labour they are hugely emotionally susceptible, so by keeping the environment positive, it’s easier for them to remain positive.
Look after yourself. The ‘emotional calm’ within the room during labour is really important to help things progress. So have a think about how you can make sure YOU are well looked after, so you can be there for your partner 100%! This might mean packing your own 'hospital bag’ full of snacks, spare clothes, deoderant, etc etc! But it might also mean having someone (maybe 2 people) on the end of the phone who can either bring you dinner if you’re starving, nip in to your house to feed the cat or even reassure you if you start to feel anxious or uncomfortable yourself. We all need support in birth, even you!
If you do NOTHING else, do this. BE PRESENT. Just be there. And I don’t mean ‘physically’, but emotionally, completely. Hold her hand, stroke her hair, give her a kiss and cuddle, look her in the eye and tell her she’s the most incredible human on this planet (because she is), and when you’ve told her once, tell her again. SHe can ABSOLUTELY do this, but you can make it a WHOLE lot easier for her!
Do share this posts with your birth partners (They cant help if they don’t KNOW HOW!)! And if you've already had your baby, let me know, what was the most helpful thing your partner did for you in labour?
To read more hints and tips for a positive birth experience read more here.
If you are interested in taking the next step to a positive birth, Positively Birthing Hypnobirthing and Antenatal Classes run throughout Surrey and SW London- areas including Surbiton, Esher, Teddington, Cobham, Twickenham, St Margarets, Thames Ditton, Molesey, Richmond, Wimbledon, Kingston, Sunbury, Epsom, Ewell, and beyond. All bookings can be made here.