Tips for Partners
It is not uncommon for birth partners to have insecurities as they prepare for labor. Perhaps you aren’t sure what to expect, or are worried about how you will feel seeing your partner in discomfort or in a different mental state, or maybe you don’t trust you will know how to support her as her labor progresses and her needs change. These are all common for expecting partners, and as doulas we make it a priority to help partners feel prepared during our prenatal visits with them.
What are some of the things you can do to support birth?
Be a Guardian of the Birth Place. We encourage partners to take on the role of creating and maintaining a safe birth place.
Is the space too cold? Look to create warmth so she feels cozy in her environment.
Is the space too bright? Dim the lights, set out flickering candles, and draw the curtains to help create an intimate space.
Are the people present supporting and holding space? Protect her privacy by restricting even the most well-meaning visitors.
Is there lots of noise that feels distracting or invasive? Keep doors shut and voices low so that she can maintain her focus.
Offer Realistic Support. Unless you feel totally confident, she may not believe you if you comment on how labor is progressing. Consider instead to freely comment on what you see. “I love you for seeing you bring our baby into the world.” “I’ve never seen you look so strong.” These are just some examples. When in doubt, repeat what you hear your doula say. :)
Observe Her Body. Take a moment to look for tightness anywhere. Is her jaw clenched? Is her face tight? Are her shoulders being pulled towards her ears? This tension directly impacts how tight and clenched the rest of her body is, particularly her pelvis and cervix, which need to open and soften in order for baby descend. Encourage her to soften where you see the tension, or with a loving and grounded touch, gently place your hand or fingers where you see the tension to encourage relaxation.
Breathe or Sound With Her. If you notice her breathing speed up, you can audibly breathe with her and subtly encourage her to slow her breathing. Then be sure to breathe in unison with her. If you hear her making sounds, encourage low moaning, groaning, or “ohmmm” noises to really help her relax and let go. If however, you notice her go silent, then consider reminding her to freely make sounds. Sometimes this is disconcerting for women who think others will be made uncomfortable or be put off by it, so help her feel confident by sounding out the labor sounds with her.
Get Her In The Water. Water has a unique way of helping a woman cope with the intensities of labor. Baths are wonderful at helping to shift gravity’s focus. Showers, with their focused pressure on either the belly or back (wherever she needs it most), can be both a lovely distraction as well as the perfect place to retreat and “hide”.
Explore a Variety of Positions and Techniques. Every 30 or so minutes, suggest your birth partner make a position change. If she’s been leaning against the wall while you Shake the Apple Tree, suggest she walk or try Abdominal Lift and Tucks. If she’s been in the shower, suggest she sit facing backwards on the toilet while you rub her back (try sitting on a birth ball while you do this). If she needs a rest, get her in a Rest Smart position in bed, ensuring her body is well supported by creative use of pillows, and then lay down with her and spoon her or stroke her back. There are a variety of techniques and movements that help labor progress.
Take Care of Yourself. Take a break to eat, nap, use the restroom, or reset. We have seen birthing women make choices and choose an early epidural before they really needed one to protect their partners. We find that when the partner remembers to take care of themselves, and the birthing woman sees that, it gives her the freedom to let go, and allow labor to progress.
Preparation is Key
Ultimately, much of your confidence will come through education and feeling supported. Find a great Childbirth Education course in your area and consider hiring a doula to support your journey to parenthood.