This is part 1 of a two part series.
This is a question that comes up a lot in my doula and hypnobirthing business. Women ask if I can work with their partner to ensure that he is the best that he can be. Partners (I’ll refer to them in this blog as “he or him” but I do acknowledge that birth partners are not always male) also want to know how they can best support their partner and help her to achieve her goals.
I’m going to split this blog post into two parts because there are two distinct areas when talking about partners and support.
When most couples ask about birth support, they ask about how the partner can best help with labour coping. How they can help the mother avoid an epidural or caesarean and what sort of massage techniques to use.
But birth support needs to be so much deeper than that. It’s really hard for a partner to “be supportive” during labour if they haven’t been practising the principles of support during the entire pregnancy.
It’s important to remember that women will generally want something slightly different from their birth partner. So before we start talking about massage techniques and labour coping strategies we need to talk about communication and what support actually means.
Here are my top tips to help you shine as a birth partner.
Tip 1. TALK ABOUT YOUR BIRTH PHILOSOPHY
It’s not necessarily important for you to have the same philosophy as the mother in order to be an awesome birth partner. BUT you do both need to be aware of where you stand in terms of birth philosophy. And it needs to go deeper than: How do you feel about epidurals!
- Do you believe that pregnancy and birth should be medically managed?
- How do you feel about evidence based care and doing your own research about birth?
- What do you know about the current birthing paradigms?
- Do you believe that birth is always a traumatic event?
- Do you believe that birth works best when it interfered with the least?
There are a lot of things that go into our birth philosophies and someone who has a dramatically different birth philosophy to the mother will need to take a very deep look at themselves and ask how they will effectively support her – according to HER birth philosophy.
Tip 2. SET YOUR BIRTH GOALS
Separately and together. You need to have a really open conversation about what your birth goals are. It is completely normal for the birthing woman to have slightly different goals to her partner. She has different knowledge and experience and it is likely quite different to yours. You may find that she is more invested in the birth process rather than just the outcome.
As an example, when I was pregnant with my second baby, our doula asked us to share our goals with her. I wrote a lengthy paragraph about VBAC, avoiding intervention, labouring at home, respect and bodily autonomy. My partner wrote one sentence, “Mum and baby healthy with a minimum of fuss”. It didn’t make him a terrible supporter, but we did have to have a conversation about what birth means to me and how he could support me appropriately.
Tip 3. LEARN
Once your partner has her birth goal sorted, it’s time to put together the birth plan that will help her achieve it.
It can be really useful for you to learn about birth, the maternity care system and the risks and benefits of routine interventions and procedures. This will help you to be more confident in asking questions and actively supporting your partner’s birth plan when birthing day arrives.
Tip 4. REMEMBER JUST WHO WILL BE THE ONE GIVING BIRTH
This one involves a huge amount of trust and can be quite controversial at times. Your partner is the one giving birth. Therefore the final say on birth goal and birth plan belongs to her. Always. If you feel uncertain of some of her choices and decisions then it is a good idea to go back over the first 3 tips to see where you need more work.
Tip 5. GET THE SUPPORT THAT YOU NEED
It’s pretty widely acknowledged that dad’s need support as well. There is so much focus on the mum (because…see tip 4!) but in order to be the best support you can be it’s important that you are receiving the support that you need.
It can be useful to join a men’s birthing group for support. The Becoming Dad – Dad’s Only Facebook group is one such group that could provide just the support that you need.
A skilled doula will also be there to provide support to the birth partner as well as the mum. We love to see partner’s shine!
Remember – if you want your partner to be raving about your birth support skills for years to come you need to do more than rub her back and hold her hand.
Preparing well during pregnancy will see you both on the same page once labour starts with a deeper emotional connection and a greater understanding of how to achieve your birth goals.
For those who are now keen to learn about support during labour – stay tuned! That will be next month’s blog post.
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