When we tell you, “we know birth”- we really mean it.
We’ve seen it all. As pregnancy support specialists, we have seen birth happen in every way possible. It’s intense, it’s messy, it’s powerful, and it’s always incredible. Because we’ve seen so much, we know how to help you understand what’s going on, what suggest when things get hard, and how to help you make game-day decisions when you need to.
However, we know that no one knows you like your partner does. We’ll never claim to, or even try to. Many of our clients have strong relationships with their partners built on trust, communication, and a deep understanding of one another (which all comes in very handy during labour!), and there’s no way we would ever be able to imitate that.
Your partner knows you, and we know birth. Together, we make a pretty incredible support team.
We use our prenatal appointments to discuss your partner’s feelings, how they want to be involved, and how we can help them experience their baby’s birth in the way that feels right for them. For most partners, the birth of their baby will be the first time they ever experience birth (can you say learning on the job?!). Talking about things ahead of time can help your partner know what to expect and how they can help.
Here are our top tips for partners during labour:
1. Keep them distracted! More often than not, labour takes a long time. Like, a LONG time. A lot of this time is spent in early labour, which means contractions aren’t at their full intensity yet and they’re pretty sporadic (think 10+ minutes apart). The best thing to do during this stage? IGNORE IT! Keep the labouring person distracted and entertained. Go for a walk, go out for a meal, work on a project together. Anything to keep both of your minds off of things!
2. Watch their body language. During labour, it’s natural to tense up your body as you anticipate the strength and power of the next contraction. However, this tension makes it almost impossible to relax- which is key for managing discomfort. Keep an eye on the labouring person’s body language, and gently mention where you see them clenching their body. Common places are in the shoulders, the face, and the hands. If they’re not in the mood to talk, gently touch the area to help remind them to relax.
3. Don’t ask a lot of questions. Most partners are so sweet, and just want to do anything possible to ease the intensity of labour and birth. This can sometimes mean the supporting partner asks a lot of questions about how they can be helpful (“How are you doing?” “What do you need?” “What do you want to try now?”). The problem with this? Most labouring people don’t know what they want! That’s what feels so overwhelming about labour. If you’re feeling nervous, try the “just do it” approach: instead of asking if they want a cool cloth, or a back rub, just do it. They’ll let you know if it’s not right.
4. Encourage movement. Sometimes the intensity of labour can cause people to freeze up stay still. Movement, new positions, and a change of scenery can really help them relax and let go of fear- which, in turn, helps labour progress. Encourage the labouring person to move into a new position every 30-45 minutes, try the bath, or go for a loop around the hospital halls.
5. Read the room. Labour is a time of intense vulnerability and focus. People in labour need to be able to feel free to move around, make sound, and let their guard down. It’s really easy for the mood in the room to shift quickly, and the partner can help labour go smoothly by being aware of the environment. Is it too bright? Is it too loud? Are people in the room allowing the labouring person to focus, or are they being distracting? It’s always okay to speak up and ask people to leave, and it helps the person doing all the work to focus and relax.
The very best way for partners to feel prepared to be the best support they can be is to learn more about labour and birth. Spend time talking to one another about your ideal experience, what you’re afraid of, and where you need feedback from one another. Communication is key! To learn even more tips and techniques for managing labour- and how to really rock this whole “supportive partner” gig- check out our Childbirth Education classes offered virtually or in your home in Nanaimo, Ladysmith, and Parksville.