How to be a Better Birth Partner
Being asked to support someone at their birth is a great honour, sharing that unique and intimate moment together. Often, the birth partner role automatically goes to the other parent, but this privilege can also be extended to close friends or relatives.
You’d be forgiven for joyfully accepting without really thinking it through, but you should never under-estimate the importance of your support. The people surrounding a birthing mother have a huge impact upon her experience and birth environment. Yet most of us have never been to a birth, so how do we know what to do?
Well, by reading this you’re either; already taking this role seriously and informing yourself as much as possible; or you might be a mum-to-be who can pass this information to your birth partner.
- Understanding what is expected – are you there simply as a companion or to be her champion when things get tough. Will you have a role in decision making? Speak to the mum-to-be about her hopes and expectations.
- Write a detailed birth plan together so that you fully comprehend mums wishes. Discuss alternative suggestions and plans, as births often take a different pathway. This ensures you can be her supporter and work with the caregiving team to ensure her voice is heard, at a time when she may withdraw into herself. If she has any fears or anxiety, discuss these and work together to alleviate them.
- Inform yourself. Nobody expects you to deliver the baby, but if you have no knowledge of what’s happening you’re likely to become nervous and fearful, which the mum-to-be may mirror.
Reading about birth or attending antenatal classes makes a difference. Approaching birth from a place of calm and positivity will alter the birth environment and your confidence. Many Hypnobirthing mothers state they wouldn’t have managed without the support of their birth companion.
- Offer support throughout her journey. Perhaps simply holding her hand during contractions or attending appointments together.
There is a huge difference between sympathy and support. Suggesting she ‘must be really tired’ probably won’t help, although it may be true. Telling her that she ‘is doing so well and that you truly believe in her and you can do it together’ will most likely alter her mindset into a more positive state.
- Protect the birth environment. Keep lights dimmed, a comfortable temperature, peace and quiet or gentle music, aromatherapy oils can be comforting to some women.
- Promote comfort throughout labour, hospitals are usually pretty warm places so ensure she is fully hydrated by offering water sporadically.
If she is looking tense, suggest a back rub to ease discomfort or apply pressure on her lower back. If she is laid on her back, encourage her into an upright position, if it is safe to do so, or onto her side.
Simply taking long calm deep breaths together can switch the focus from what is happening and any sensations she may be feeling. You can learn about breathing techniques, alternative pain relief and support options through Hypnobirthing classes or online.
- If you’re feeling anxious or exhausted, take a moment to step outside. This would be preferable to remaining and having a panic attack! A 5 minute stroll in the fresh air could be enough to wake you up or give you time to grab a coffee.
These are just some simple suggestions, which might be useful when preparing to support someone in birth. Most of all, enjoy witnessing a new life coming into this world.
Written by Leanne from www.brighterbirthing.com – Educating, empowering and relaxing courses to prepare yourself for a fear free birth