The top 5 things every birthing partner needs to do when you’re in labour

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The Secret, yet Essential Element in your labour.

In my experience, there is something that can make a significant difference to your labour, and its right under your nose.…. Your birthing partner. 

Your birthing partner can be the making or breaking of your experience of birth.

Many men struggle when they see the person they love in labour. Their instinct to be able to “fix it” can kick into gear, and yet, they know rationally that they cannot change what is happening i.e. a baby is to be born through this process.

What women need from their birthing partner is completely unique to them, let’s be honest, a labouring woman is very different to the woman before and after giving birth. She occupies a different set of needs, a different way of communicating, and is doing something profoundly important.  

But here are a few ideas that can be good to store in your tool box. So men, this is for you, strap on your labour tool belt and slot these things into their designated areas!

1 Physical Touch: Every labouring woman is different, and what they feel is beneficial in labour can be very individual. It is up to the skills and flexibility of the birth partner to sense what she would like. Depending on what position the baby is in, the sensations they experience when in labour can mean that pressure is exerted in different areas. Helpful tips might be light touch massage, however it also might be a focussed massage on the lower back. Try to ask her, or try things and see if she likes it. Oxytocin, the hormone of love, which is also the hormone that triggers contractions is released when a woman can feel love, therefore, hugs, kisses, other physical touch can be hugely helpful to sustaining a woman’s feelings of love, safety, and ensuring that essential oxytocin is flowing!

2. Words of Encouragement: The voice of your birthing partner is the most unique voice they can have. It is the voice that the woman in labour fell in love with. Do not under-estimate how powerful saying encouraging words can be. To all my clients I always let them know that relaxation scripts done in preparation with their partner can be incredibly empowering, especially as continuity when in labour. The mere words of the person they love, saying something encouraging such as “You’re doing so well” “You’re safe” “I love you and am so proud of you” can be overwhelmingly significant to them and their baby. Do not undermine the power of words over tension, anxiety and promoting positive outcomes. See this study which demonstrates how profoundly powerful what we say can be. http://www.cam.ac.uk/research/news/encouragement-from-teachers-has-greatest-influence-on-less-advantaged-children

3. Refreshments: Offer drinks, snacks, ice.. isotonic Lucozade is always a winner! Ive known partners in their inability to “fix” the situation, can go into a “freeze” mode, and forget simple things such as offering snacks, and drinks, even more so, some have even gone a step further and eaten the snacks designated for their woman in labour!! A labouring woman's body is working tremendously hard, so hydration and energy are essential to ensure she is being provided with essential nutrition.

4. Main Communicator: There’s evidence that when a male is near a labouring woman, their testosterone hormone decreases and their prolactin increases, a hormone which makes them more alert and attentive. Let’s face it, men are terrible at giving birth, but they are wonderful at protecting! A main feature of KGHypnobirthing is the importance placed on the female remaining in a relaxed peace of mind (parasympathetic nervous system). This encourages endorphins to be released, ensuring that breathing is regulated thus increasing appropriate oxygen to the labouring muscles. If they are choosing to have a hospital birth, on most occasions, couples will only just have met their care givers for the first time in labour. As a result, men can be really helpful in being the one which protects the woman from engaging the neocortex, the thinking part of the brain. Thus, a birth partner can be essential in being the main communicator between medical staff, and with their labouring partner. They can ask the questions and then work out how to communicate them to the person they love/in labour as best as possible, helping her to remain calm, relaxed and confident. 

5. Set the room environment up: When women or other mammals are in labour, there are two key themes that are important: that they feel SAFE and UNOBSERVED. Thus, environment is key in how women feel, which can trigger a surge of oxytocin or conversely, halt oxytocin. Some ideas to help the environment may be, dimmed light (many women/mammals start labour at night time), maybe its candles, music, soft furnishings, birthing ball etc. Whatever makes the labouring women comfortable, safe, relaxed, peaceful, content are helpful.

In short, Do NOT underestimate the power your birth partner can have to change the course of the journey of labour. Being present physically and emotionally (put that phone away!) can make a dramatic effect! Birthing partners are hugely important, yet regularly underestimated. These tools may be what changes your experience and the outcome of the journey.