The most important part of being a birth partner is managing to stay calm and confident, no matter what the situation, as well as giving you plenty of reassurance along the way. This is because mum will mirror your emotional state during labour and birth. If you are anxious, she will feel anxious too.
There are many different birthing prompts that partners can use to remind mum to stay calm and relaxed and to give her encouragement. These vary depending on the stage of labour but include phrases such as:-
“Body limp with total relaxation and peace.”
“Trust your body; long, deep breaths.”
“Body limp, shoulders limp, chest relaxed.”
“Opening with each new sensation.”
”Follow the lead of your baby and your body.
“Gently, softly, breathe love down to your baby.”
With hypnobirthing, there are various anchors that birth partners can use to prompt a deeper relaxation such as their hand pressing down on your shoulder, prompting a key word such as ‘lavender’ or your chosen birth colour or prompting visualisations such as an opening blossom or inflating a balloon in your uterus during contractions (surges). Birth partners should become familiar with the hypnobirthing breathing techniques so that they can remind mum to do them, if necessary.
Birth partners will be mum’s advocate for the birth plan, asking appropriate questions when necessary, so it is important that they know what the birth preferences are. They will need to ask questions to weigh up the risks verses the benefits of any medical intervention, if it is suggested:-
Benefits – what are the benefits?
Risks – what are the risks?
Alternatives – are there any natural alternatives?
Instinct – what is your instinct telling you?
Nothing? – what if we were to do nothing and wait for a while?
Birth partners’ role is to set up the right environment for birth with dimly lit lighting, comfort zone music playing, relaxation and birth affirmation recordings playing, covering the clock to avoid any time keeping, and in the case of a home water birth, keeping the temperature of the birth pool at the right level.
Physically, birth partners can help enormously by giving light touch massage before, during and after contractions (surges). This will help with the release of endorphins, the body’s natural tranquiliser, by producing a massive stimulation in the nerves just below the surface of the skin which overwhelms the nervous system with a message of pleasure from the brain blocking out any messages of pain to the nervous system.
Other physical support might include walking with mum and being her leaning post during the contractions (surges) so that she can lean forward or supporting her if she is squatting or even just being a lap to rest on during hands and knee positions.
Caregiving is another important role, which includes providing mum with cool facecloths on her forehead or neck, keeping her warm, placing pillow and cushions where needed for comfort, reminding her to go to the toilet, keeping her hydrated and fed to keep up blood sugar levels because without food and fluid labour slows down.
Birth partners have a crucial role to play during labour and birth, to support mum psychologically, emotionally, and physically with a calm and confident manner and the frequent assurance that all is going well.
Choose a birth partner that you trust wholeheartedly and who will support you without question.
Emma Harwood-Jones, Hypnobirthing Practitioner, Together Birthing