Tips on being a good birthing partner

If you have been asked to be a birthing partner, you may not be sure of where to start or what you need to do. Here are our top tips on being a good birthing partner.

  1. Prepare yourself
  2. Stay calm and relaxed
  3. Look after yourself
  4. Be prepared for change
  5. Be her support
  6. Be encouraging
  7. Be in charge of all things practical
  8. Remember you are needed

1. Prepare yourself: It is a sensible idea to ensure that you understand what should happen during labour. You should read up on what a straightforward labour entails, the stages of labour and what will happen should intervention be needed. You may want to attend antenatal classes and also have a tour of the facility.  Watching television programmes that show real labours may help you to get an understanding of the reality of labour.

However, you must remember that although you have read up on labour, you are not the expert and you must ask and take the advice from the midwives and medical staff as they will still know a lot more than you.

2. Stay Calm and relaxed: If you are fully prepared for taking on the role of birthing partner, you will have more chance of remaining calm and relaxed throughout. Labour is difficult for a pregnant woman and may take a very long time, she will need you to stay ffocusedand able to help her at all times.  You will not be able to do this if you are worked up or panicking.

3. Look after yourself: In order to stay focussed throughout labour, you will need to look after yourself. Labour could take many hours and you need to ensure that you do not get over hungry or thirsty and you may need to take a break. This may feel difficult for you to do as you watch someone struggling through labour and unable to rest, however, you will not be supporting her if you faint due to hunger or if you are not focussed. A short walk down the corridor and back can give you a break if labour is extremely long. It is also possible that labour will take place in the middle of the night, you may therefore want to pack some energy drinks for yourself as well as snacks. You may also feel more alert after a change of clothes as labour wards can be very hot and you may get uncomfortably warm during a long labour.

4. Be prepared for change: Although you would have spent time discussing what she wants for her labour and also what she does not want, you may find that she changes her mind. You will have to be very tactful in this situation, make sure that the new decision is definitely what she wants and then help her to adjust to this change and help her to receive it. She may change her mind about what pain relief is to be used or maybe the positions to be used for childbirth.

Babies sometimes come early or later than expected, you may be at a very important meeting at work, but you will need preparations in place so that you can leave if necessary.

No-one knows what their labour will be like, even if this is a second or third labour, they are all different so you must be prepared for every eventuality.

5. Be her support: You will be her only constant, you will be the one who knows the most about her and you must do everything you can for her to be able to rely on you. There may be several other medical staff in the room with you but she should get the most support from you. This may be just holding her hand, giving a massage, handing her a drink or running to the cafeteria to get a specific type of chocolate for her.

6. Be encouraging: Labour is a very difficult thing to go through and there may times when she doubts herself and believes that she cannot do it. It is your job to hold her hand and remind her that she can. You need to remind her how well she is doing, that it won’t be long, that it is worth it and that you are proud of her. However, you must not be patronising at any time even if you end up repeating the same things over and over again.

7. Be in charge of all things practical: Although the bag ready for labour will already be packed, it is your job to make sure that it gets to the hospital/unit with you, make sure you have coats too as well as the things you will need for the baby like clothes, blankets and car seat.

You will need to make sure that there is always petrol in the car if you are driving to the hospital and make sure that you know which way to go. Make sure that you know where to park and how much it will cost as if it is Pay and Display you will also need to make sure that you have money for parking.

If there are older children to consider, you need to make sure that they are well looked after and reassure that they are well and happy to your partner.

8. Remember that you are needed: There will be times during labour that you may feel useless and that you are not doing anything to help.  If this happens, you must remember that you are doing a very special job and that you being there is helping the labour progress.

You may get shouted at, or told that you are horrible and mean or you may get sworn at and told that she hates you. You must remember that labour is very painful and traumatic and many women say things that although they mean at the time, they will regret afterwards.

by Jenny, mum to William and James

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