Women

Your role as go-between

One of the most important roles of a birth partner, whether you are the baby's father or someone else chosen to be the birth partner, is to be aware of what is happening during the labor and birth and to liaise with the medical professionals on behalf of the mother if necessary. There may be instances when you or your laboring partner don't understand why a certain course of action is being taken, and your partner may be in too much pain, or too preoccupied with labor, to be able to ask. Your job is to talk to the midwife or doctor and gather information about what is happening. This means that you will both feel fully informed about what is happening in labor and will be able to participate in any decisions that have to be made about the labor or birth.

Keeping informed:

As well as providing emotional and practical support, an important aspect of your role is to pay attention to what is happening and ask questions on your partner's behalf.

Extra birth partners —Can you have more than one birth partner?

Most hospitals are happy for women to have more than one birth partner, although some do set limits, depending on the amount of available space.

  • It's common for women to have their mom, sister, or close friend with them in addition to their partner.

  • If labor is particularly long, having more than one birth partner can mean that they can relieve each other for breaks knowing that the mother has someone with her.

  • Some evidence suggests that having a female birth partner reduces the amount of pain relief and intervention needed.

Remaining calm —Keeping your cool under pressure!

Even though the birth of your baby is one of the most memorable and exciting events of your life, it can also be hard to witness your partner's pain and to stay calm under pressure.

  • Being mentally prepared to see your partner experience considerable pain can mean that you are more likely to respond in a reassuring, rather than anxious, way.

  • Breathing and relaxation techniques can help you stay calm and focused too.

  • If you do start to feel flustered, it may be wise to leave the room briefly, if there is an opportune moment, to refocus.

NOTE

Having a trusted birth partner—whether your husband, best friend, or mom—can help you labor more effectively

NOTE

Good communication and getting information from caregivers is key—we are less stressed when we feel involved in decisions

Birth partners Your support during labor

The goal of a birth partner, whether this is your husband or life partner, a friend, family member, or hired doula, is to offer practical and emotional support to you throughout labor and birth.

Q: How can birth partners help?
A: Since a birth partner's role is to support you through labor and birth, it is important that they are aware of your wishes and are prepared to advocate on your behalf or keep track of events when you are not able to. It is important that they are knowledgeable about the stages of labor and have discussed with you in advance ways in which they might help, whether through practical support such as massage or helping you with labor positions, or by offering you encouragement and reassurance.
Q: What is a “doula”?
A: Doula is a Greek word that means “woman servant” or “caregiver.” Nowadays, this refers to someone who gives emotional and practical support to a woman before, during, and after birth. The goal is for a woman to have a positive experience of pregnancy, birth, and early motherhood. This help and support is extended to the partner and other children. Doulas can offer support in pregnancy, which gives time for the family to get to know her. In labor and birth, she can help with massage, suggesting different positions, interacting with professionals, and giving emotional support. After birth, doulas can help with feeding and baby care, as well as care of the mother. Some do housework, prepare meals, and entertain older children.

Fathers can provide invaluable emotional and practical support to their partners during labor. Being attentive to your partner's needs and comforting and encouraging her will help her to deal with the labor.

Myths and misconceptions Is it true that…

Q: You have to pant while giving birth?
A: Some natural childbirth practitioners advocate “patterned breathing” or panting during childbirth, while others recommend natural deep breathing, and techniques that rely on positioning and relaxation. Patterned breathing or panting can be useful if it helps you manage contractions, but it's best to just do what feels right for you.
Q: Each labor gets easier?
A: This may or may not be true for you. Generally speaking, second labors are shorter in duration, but that is not always the case. Shorter does not always mean easier: your second baby could be bigger than your first, or positioned differently; there are many factors that affect your experience of giving birth.
Q: You will feel the urge to push?
A: Feeling the urge to push is instinctive, natural, and overwhelming, right? Well, believe it or not, this is not always true. Many women do feel an urge to push, but sometimes pushing is painful and women will avoid pushing at all costs. Other times medications, such as an epidural, will interfere with the sensation of needing to push. Your midwife will help you understand what's happening and guide you as to when it's safe to push.
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