If you are the partner of someone who is pregnant, or you have been asked to be a birth support person, you have been given a privilege and a responsibility: to provide emotional and physical support to a woman who will need your help through one of the most significant and vulnerable experiences of her life.
Being the support person for a woman in labour is a wonderful experience, a great honour and a particularly personal journey if you are the co-parent of her baby.
If you are anxious about the birth, it will be helpful to gather as much information as you can about what is going to happen, so when the moment comes you can be the best help possible.
Here are our top 10 tips to help you prepare:
1. Talk through a BIRTH PLAN together: Where will she give birth? When and how will you contact the midwife? What pain relief options will be considered? Discuss music, lighting and surroundings. Consider positions in labour and birth aides. Discuss food and hydration preferences and talk about what she wants to happen once the baby arrives.
2. Be PREPARED and don't leave anything to the last minute. Remember babies can arrive early! Make sure bags are packed with everything needed, put the carseat in the car and practice a few times putting it in and out.
3. If she is using a TENS machine, hire the LABOUR TENS unit for her and when it arrives, set up it up and learn how to use it. It's a good idea to test out the unit and ensure you know where to place the electrodes on her back.
4. During the birth be prepared to offer MORAL SUPPORT. Be guided by her mood and fit in with her. Some women want their birth partner to stand by quietly, other women will want comfort and physical support (massage or hand holding).
5. Learn how to MASSAGE beforehand. Some women find pain relief from effective massage (and some do not). Make sure you have a good quality massage oil ready to go and follow her lead.
6. Think HYDRATION and NUTRITION. Have water (ice cold water is good) and healthy snacks on hand. Labour is hard work and she will need to keep up her fluids. Offer her ice and cold water.
7. Be her ADVOCATE. Support her right to make her own decisions about her body. If interventions are suggested make sure she understands all the risks and benefits and agrees to any interventions.
8. After the baby is born, she is likely to want immediate SKIN-ON-SKIN contact. Help her get comfortable enough to do this and let her take her time. If you are the parent, then make sure you get your own skin-on-skin contact time too.
9. RESTRICT VISITORS. After the birth allow her time to rest, recover and feed her baby without interruptions from visitors. Ask her when she is ready for visitors and politely decline guests if she needs to rest. A friendly message to friends saying 'mum and baby are resting so no visitors just yet' or a message on the door is a good idea.
10. Do what you can to care for MUM and BABY. Get involved right from the beginning, changing nappies, comforting and holding the baby. Care for the new mum with plenty of love, nourishment and hydration. Above all, protect her time to sleep. Feeding a newborn through the night can be exhausting and she will need to nap during the day.
A birth support person can find labour and the birth pretty daunting too, especially if you have never done this before. Many prospective birth support people admit to worrying about not knowing what to do and finding they are completely useless. They might panic or worse, faint! Not knowing what to expect, they are concerned they will be horrified and say or do something inappropriate. Some are genuinely worried about things going wrong, and that something might threaten the health of their partner or the baby. These are all natural feelings.
Be assured you will do your best and come away with a remarkable new way of looking at life and love and the miracle of birth!