Our number one tip has to be – keep calm. As birth doulas we often support second time mums that employ us because in their first birth their partner was “panicking” all the time, and she felt she had to look after him whilst labouring!! Not a cool idea!
During our antenatal courses we tell the partners that the best thing they can do in labour is to “just shut up!”. We really don’t want to be mean, but when labour gets really intense most women want to just shut their eyes, shut out the world and ride on through those waves. That is REALLY hard to do when your partner is gabbling away. It is often also a sure sign that he is panicking (see tip number 1) and trying to “mend” things (see tip number 4!). Of course there will always be the occasional woman that enjoys chatter and laughter – so be prepared to go with her flow.
Cuddles help to release oxytocin which is the hormone of love. It’s also crucial for encouraging contractions and the more regular they are, the shorter the labour will be. Just hold her – sway – and remember… be quiet!
So here is the biggest challenge for birth partners. They love the mum so much that they just want to make everything ‘alright’. Sometimes that can be by encouraging the use of pain relief (that she may not need or want) or sometimes by encouraging interventions to just ‘speed things up’ a little. But you see the amazing thing about labour is that it is the mother and baby’s journey alone. They can do this – they will get through it. Some labours end in a vaginal birth and some end in a caesarean – and the mum will be strong enough to cope with anything that comes her way – as long as you are there, and holding her (see tip number 3) and telling her she is fabulous and incredible.
Finally – partners need to look after themselves. An average labour lasts 18 hours for a first timer – beginning to end. Likelihood is that it will start overnight though, so you will have probably missed a nights sleep and so won’t have slept for a couple of days. Of course the woman is working incredibly hard throughout, but she has no choice but to labour on through (excuse the pun) – but the partner CAN and should rest when possible (see tips 1 & 2) and ensure that they are nourished as well as the mum. Okay, it’s not a great idea to tell the mum you need a break – but you could tell her you are just off to the loo and give yourself a 15 minute break. Then when you walk back in to the room you will be refreshed and ready to offer the best support emotionally and physically again. If all of this sounds a little overwhelming then consider bringing in a friend or family member to support the mum whilst you have a rest – or hire a doula that will be able to support you both continually through pregnancy, labour and birth.
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