Partners often feel like they don’t have a role in the birth space. Male partners in particular may have had limited positive associations with birth. Many dads in the 70s and 80s still were not attending the births of their partners, so advice from the birth partner’s own grandpa or dad might be limited. From all the jokes about birth being ‘like watching your favourite pub burn down’, or advice to ‘stay at the top end’, it’s no wonder some partners feel anxious, useless or even stand-offish about their role.
The key to being a supportive birth partner is just try something! Better to be shoved away then be the person who asks “can I do anything?”. Women in active labour struggle to cope with open-ended questions, and often struggle to talk at all.
1. Learn some acupressure and massage techniques. Debra Betts has a really easy app to learn more about acupressure: https://www.udemy.com/acupressure-for-labour/ or search for it in the apple store. Did you see my video where I talk about the partner's role in birth and packing some golf balls in your labour bag? There’s an acupressure point on the soles of the feet that can really relieve tension and anxiety.
2. Be in charge of packing and repacking the bag with the things you’re likely to need easy access to in labour – birth notes, music, lip balm etc. Have your partner know where your go to items are so you’re not spending those intense moments screaming “just look in the bag!”
A good suggestion is to pack one bag for mum and a separate bag for baby. While it’s tempting to put your newborn’s outfit at the top of the bag, this is often the last thing you’ll actually need.
3. Have positive coping statements ready to act as your cheer squad. “You’re doing well”, “we get to meet baby soon”, “you are strong. You can do this” and so on. Sounds simple enough but often a couple of things happen in labour – one is that in the intensity of it all, partners don’t know what to say or how to act, so they can throw us off by saying something odd, unfunny or just annoying. Two – women are very vulnerable during labour, thus they are really suggestible. If you know there are certain phrases that will make you cringe or piss you off, put in a plan now to re-word them or put them in your birth plan
4. Be your partner’s brain. Discuss your preferences as a couple beforehand so you can have any questions directed at you. This allows mum to not have to break her concentration unnecessarily and can give you more confidence as an active participant in the birth. Birthing women need to stay in a primal state, and not have pressure to have to use the rational, logical frontal lobe of the brain.
Hypnobirthing Australia classes specifically cover an entire section on the partners’ role in birth. We provide active strategies, rehearse techniques and even provide a cheat sheet in case everything falls out your head in the moment! It's evidence-based on the latest research, and the skills we teach are not just applicable to birth, but are life-long strategies to manage stress and pain. Skills that you can go on to teach your family, your reluctant newly-pregnant friends, work colleagues and your own children.
I’ve seen the most uninvolved, squeamish and fearful of partners completely transformed by this course, so if this is you (or your partner) get in touch and we’ll work together to provide the best birth possible. The best gift you can give to yourself (or your partner) is strong, positive birth education and preparation. You might go on to buy another pram if your first purchase isn't suitable. You can always return unwanted gadgets bought on impulse, but you can't take back your actual birth experience. What's more, you're unlikely to regret feeling prepared for the birth of your baby.
If you are not in the Macedon Ranges, there's still a hypnobirthing practitioner near you. Just enter your postcode