How to be a positive birth partner. Part 1: before

So, there’s a bump growing ever-visible. You’re assured there’s a baby in there (though most of the time it feels completely unreal) and at some point you know it has to come out. How the hell are you going to help?

TV and films are deeply unhelpful in terms of the partner’s role. He stands there shouting ” remember to breathe” or “push” at an increasingly irate woman with a look of panic/horror on his face. Occasionally he  just opts to pass out and misses the whole thing. How on earth are you supposed to know what to say or do and, more importantly, not say or not do? How “do you prepare for something simultaneously exciting, terrifying and boring?”*

Ok, I’ll start by saying I can’t really give you a definitive answer to this. Every woman is different. Every partner is different. Every relationship is different and every birth is different. You know yourself and your partner best so only you have the best idea of how to be a great birth partner. I can’t tell you what to do.

Saying that there are things I’ve picked up from people I’ve worked with and from the births I’ve supported that could provide a good starting point.

Let’s start before the birth…

1. Talk to your partner about the birth. How do you feel about it? What worries you? What are you hoping for?

2. Try and have an open mind about the stuff she wants to do to prepare. Hypnobirthing, acupuncture, doulas etc all sounds very happy clappy, but may surprise you. Antenatal preparation is really useful especially if it’s your first baby.

3. Don’t worry about having to know it all/be an expert in the biology of birth. It doesn’t matter if you can’t draw a female pelvis. The midwives know all about that – your focus is your partner.

4. So maybe ask your partner what things she thinks you should know? A good starting point is working on a birth plan together and knowing that inside and out.

5. Do become an expert on the hormonal process of birth. Oxytocin is your friend during labour and you are the most helpful person for helping your partner to release this hormone that makes the uterus contract (no pressure). Find out what helps and what hinders oxytocin release here and here.

6. Do take a bit of time to find out about how to get good information from medical staff and how to make decisions based on this. Talk to your partner about what decisions/discussions she wants to be involved in bearing in mind the the less she’s disturbed and stressed the smoother her labour is likely to be. The AIMS ‘Am I Allowed’ is a great booklet to read and do learn the ‘BRAIN’ acronym.

7. Ask your partner how she sees your role during labour and birth and be honest about what you are comfortable with. You are most useful if you are well-prepared and happy with what’s being asked of you.

8. Think about having a doula present. She’ll help you prepare in advance and give you some respite on the day.

9. Don’t listen to birth horror stories and protect your partner from them. They just aren’t helpful to anyone. Ever. There’s some positive and realistic ones here.

10. Have faith in yourself. You know your partner best and she trusts you to be there for her.

That’s it really – though more suggestions welcome below.

Next up: “part 2: during the birth“.


* thanks to one of my twitter followers for that brilliant quote.

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The Hackney Doula

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