Alright, this post is for all the husbands, partners, mums, sisters, friends, or anyone who may have been chosen for the very important job of birth support partner. Support is so important in labour, and many people would say that it is actually the MOST important aspect in a positive birth experience. Labour is like running a marathon, and it can be really intense! Seeing someone that you love experiencing labour can be tough, and without a clear plan you can sometimes feel helpless. Below are five practical things that you can do to support a woman through labour and birth:
Create a relaxing environment
It is well known between midwives and obstetricians that labour often slows or stalls when you arrive at the hospital. This is because the environment changes from a familiar, quiet, comfortable place at home - to an unfamiliar, often busy and loud environment. So what can we do to help reduce this change in environment? Make your hospital room as close to your home as you can manage. I often suggest that setting up the room can be the birth partners ‘job’ when you first arrive at the hospital. There are so many things that you can do, just think of what you would do to create a nice romantic evening at home. You can bring in your own pillows, essential oils, affirmation posters, dim the lights and put on some relaxing music. Perhaps bringing a birthing ball and nice fluffy towel for the shower? The options are really endless, and it is all about making the new environment more like home.
Massage and counter pressure
There are many different types of massage that can be great during labour. In our Hypnobirthing classes we teach light touch massage, which is amazing for releasing endorphins (i.e. pain relieving hormones!!) and helping the woman to relax. Regular massage is also great, and you can use a lovely oil to further enhance the relaxation. Counter pressure is a firm, constant pressure that is applied to the lower back, which can be especially beneficial if the woman is experiencing back labour.
Shower on lower back/tummy
Showers are brilliant during labour! The upright position allows gravity to help baby move down, and the warm water helps you to relax. The also create a sense of privacy – see tip number 1! Having a hot shower is often one of the first things we will suggest to women in labour. Most showers in birthing rooms have 2 shower heads. This means that you can have one running over your back as you normally would, and also another handheld one over your tummy or back – wherever you are feeling contractions. The birth partner can hold this second nozzle, directing it wherever the woman needs it most.
Sips of water
During labour women can often forget to keep hydrated. Sometimes they are in positions or places (like the shower) that are not near their drink bottle. Other times they are just so focussed that they don’t even think about it. The birth partner can make sure that a cup of water is always handy, and can offer sips regularly during labour. The same goes for juice and electrolyte drinks. Bonus points if there is ice in the water and a bendy straw. Trust me it comes in handy!!
Cold face washers or heat packs.
Like the heat from a shower, heat packs can also be held over the lower back or tummy to encourage the muscles to relax and release. Heat packs can also be used for counter pressure, which makes this technique even more effective! During labour it is very common to feel hot – like when you go for a run. So cold face washers over the forehead and neck, and perhaps a fan can really help. Birth partners can ensure that the face washer is frequently run under the cold tap.
And that is it! Five simple and easy things that you can do to help support your partner. When your thinking ‘I don’t know what I can do’, you can refer to these tips and give them a go. Even if your offer is declined, the woman who you are supporting knows that you are there for them.
To learn even more ways to be a great support during labour join our next Group Hypnobirthing Class, which begins in May! This is the ultimate way to prepare for the birth of your baby, and to achieve a calm, relaxed and positive birth. Private one on one classes are also available.