By Calmbirth Educator Lael Stone
It’s pretty much expected these days that your partner will be there for the birth of your baby. In fact, it’s seen as ‘strange’ if your partner isn’t present. As a childbirth educator and birth attendant I have been present at many births and witnessed a lot of interesting “support” techniques.
On one occasion a mother was having contractions – moaning and making noises, and her partner kept turning up the volume on the TV (he was watching the footy) to drown out the sound of her heavy breathing techniques!
During a different birth the mother was on all fours telling us how much her back was hurting, and her partner kept complaining that his back was hurting from the gym. These are just a couple of the so-called support techniques we’ve seen that nearly ended in divorce.
So, Mums- to-be: if you’re worried that your partner isn’t going to have any idea what to do on game day get them to read this checklist of the top eight ways they can support you in labour (and ensure that your relationship survives the birth!).
The Top 8 Birth Support Tips Any Partner Can Do
Bring the calm
Women are very sensitive to their environment in labour, so if you’re freaking out they’ll feel it too. The vibe needs to be calm. If you find yourself pacing the floor or feeling the need to chain smoke, go outside and calm down.
Many women prefer a dark, intimate space to labour in so get yourself onto ambience duty. Keep lights turned down, play calm music and try to keep the room warm. Having a chilled out space helps everyone to stay more relaxed.
Depending on how the woman feels during labour, a massage can be either amazing or absolutely horrendous. I’ve witnessed women purring with pleasure at a gentle back rub, and others threatening to cut your hands off if you touch them again. If you want to give it a try, apply firm pressure on her lower back as well as gentle touching on the shoulders and neck. Cold face washes on the forehead and back of the neck can also feel like bliss.
Know what’s normal
We get it, reading lots of pregnancy books or doing a week-long workshop on birth isn’t usually high on most guys’ agendas – but it does pay to get a bit of info under your belt. Doing some sort of birth class at the hospital, with a private educator or even online will give you an understanding of what to expect. Remember that tears, vomit, blood, sweating and pooing are all part of birthing a baby. The body has to clear itself out to give birth, so don’t freak out – all of that is normal.
Breathing deeply is one of the best tools you can use in whatever type of birth you’ve planned for. Whether she’s having a spinal put in for a Caesarean or just riding out those contractions, remind her to breathe – and breathe the right way. Forget the huffing and puffing that you see on TV, slow deep breaths are the way to go. In through the nose and out through the nose.
Look after yourself
Be sure to take breaks. Birth can take a long time and there can often be a lot of waiting. It can even be boring! Remember to keep eating (especially through the night) and stay hydrated. If the idea of being there for the entire labour is overwhelming and daunting, then consider hiring a doula or independent midwife to support you both through the birth.
No matter how your baby is born there are enormous benefits for skin-on-skin contact with Dad. A father’s bare chest can stabilise the baby’s body temperature and help reduce newborn stress. If mum had a Caesarean and can’t have skin-on-skin with the baby straight away, then whip your top off and place the baby on your chest. Another great opportunity is after mum and baby have had that first breastfeed; wrap yourself up with your baby whilst mum has a shower or something to eat. It will be the start of a wonderful love affair.
If you really have no idea what to do at the birth, then just love your partner. Oxytocin, the hormone that creates contractions, is also known as the hormone of love. Women release this hormone when they feel loved – so the more you can love on your woman, the more oxytocin she will make, the calmer she will feel and the better the experience you are all going to have. She’ll be doing an amazing job bringing your baby into the world so jump on that love train and show her how you feel!