By Clare (@thebloommeexperience)
Having a baby is one of the most transformative experiences of your life. Who you decide to have by your side can have a big impact. Clare, mum of four, qualified postpartum nurse and founder of The Bloomme Experience – one-to-one and small group hypnobirthing courses – shares her tips for birth partners so that they know how to be a good birth partner and can support you effectively every step of the way. This advice isn’t just geared towards a ‘natural’ birth; many also apply to birth plans that may be more complex or even scheduled or unplanned c-sections. Send this to your birth partner!
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Who should I have as my birth partner?
Who you choose to support you during the birth of your baby could be something you’ve thought about for a while. For most women it’s their partners, a family member or close friend. It can sometimes be a “battle of the most popular” to those who are desperate to be with you during this momentous experience. But, with favourites aside, what makes a great birth partner and how do you prepare them to best support you throughout this experience that you will remember for the rest of your life?
Your birth partner will be someone who is encouraging and supportive. They are your rock and your guidance when you feel lost and an emotional anchor when needed. Birth partners are often portrayed on TV and in films as sitting in chairs, pacing the birth room or on their phones, taking a backstage seat.
What if I told you that the person who you have with you during the birth of your baby can have a HUGE impact on the whole experience? Let me tell you how.
What does a good birth partner do?
Your body’s birth bestie is a hormone called Oxytocin. This hormone helps to kick start labour, maintain labour and ensures your body and baby work in what I can only describe as a magical dance to navigate birth effectively. Oxytocin supports your uterus in contracting which in turn dilates your cervix. Known as the ‘shy’ hormone, it needs a bit of coaxing to get started but once fully loaded it encourages courage, reduces the feeling of danger and also increases calm and lowers the feeling of pain…It’s a pretty big deal.
So when it comes to your birth partner, they can play a huge part in supporting your Oxytocin tank to be overflowing and abundant. Preparation is key and by empowering your birth partner to feel knowledgeable about how they can help you through the birth of your baby, everyone feels much calmer and supported. With that in mind…
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10 Tips for Birth Partners: Here’s How to be a Good Birth Partner
- Pack the hospital bags together
As simple as this sounds, having your birth partner re-pack your bag can be a game changer. “I was so happy to help my partner navigate the birth bag during labour” said no birthing woman ever! If your birth partner has packed your bag, they will take ownership in the whereabouts of items, leaving you free of birth rage when they can’t find your lip balm. Remind them to pack a bag for themselves too.
- Understand the basics of birth
A birth partner who understands what happens during labour can help to support you better through each moment. Watching a few positive birth videos online can normalise birth. You can find C-section, Water, Home and Hospital births on Youtube – watch whichever ones you feel most comfortable with.
- Help stay hydrated
During labour it’s super important to keep hydrated to prevent dehydration and fatigue. Offering you water and reminding you to empty your bladder can help support labour to progress. If your bladder is full your baby may take longer to move further into your pelvis, so plenty of drinking and peeing regularly is something your birth partner can remind you to do.
- Give calming massage
Warmth, touch, massage and rhythmic motion can help with the production of Oxytocin. A gentle lower back massage or even a stroking touch on your forearm can help release oxytocin which in turn calms your body, lowers your pulse and promotes the need for more touch. Touch promotes oxytocin and oxytocin promotes touch and so the cycle continues. Practising massage before you go into labour is a great idea, it will help you establish the speed, position and pressure that is just right for you.
If you’re planning a c-section, your partner can use these techniques to calm you ahead of the anaesthetic and when preparing for theatre. As well as holding your hand or stroking your hair – if you like – during surgery.
- Use affirmations and positive words
Creating a list of positive birth affirmations can help your birth partner know what to say to encourage you. We all like encouragement and to be told we’re doing well at something. Positive birth affirmations can do just that. You can buy them or print your favourites out and have them dotted around your birth setting. Your birth partner can read them to you when you need them.
- Learning to breathe
Breathing can play a huge part in labour; gentle breaths in and a longer breath out can help with the production of Oxytocin. It can also help to focus your mind if you feel out of control. Having your birth partner practice a birth breath can be super useful. As your birth partner is likely someone you will turn to when you need guidance, they will probably know you better than anyone else in the birth room and identify when you’ll need extra support. If your birth partner sees you need refocusing they can suggest you copy their breathing pattern through each contraction. Or use these calming breaths ahead of, or during, theatre in the case of a c-section.
- Early labour checklist
Having a checklist for early labour can help your birth partner focus and not fuss. It can give them suggestions on how they can support you during this (sometimes) longer stage of labour. Things such as; running a bath, closing the curtains and creating a calming environment, putting a film on, making something to eat, putting the bags in the car if you’re birthing away from home and so forth. Putting a list on your fridge in the weeks leading up to birth can encourage you to add anything that comes to mind.
- Be an advocate
You may feel in labour that you want someone to advocate for you, to become your voice and explain your preferences to your health care professionals. Having your birth partner understand and be prepared to voice your preferences can help you feel supported and cared for.
- Be a photographer
If you want to record or take pictures of your birth, then get your birth partner involved beforehand. Packing an extra charger and batteries is a good idea too. Explain what type of photos you’d like and when. I know so many mums who wished they’d had their partner take more photos during the birth of their baby.
- Go on a ‘Birth Prep’ Date
This is such a fun way to collate all of the above. You can discuss your upcoming birth prep and chat about these tips on how to be a good birth partner. It also allows them to take responsibility for being your person during this monumental time.
I suggest repeating a birth prep date every now and then to top up your ideas and thoughts. It can make everyone feel more prepared, at ease and most of all excited! You can stay home, or go out for a meal and make a bit of a ‘thing’ of it!
The birth of your baby is something you will remember for the rest of your life. Having someone with you that knows how to be a good birth partner; that is well prepared, knowledgeable and ready to advocate for you, can leave you feeling calm, supported and heard.
Clare is a qualified postpartum nurse and helps women through all stages of life: pregnancy, birth, motherhood and beyond. She offers free resources as well as more in-depth courses in groups or in private.