How to Be a Supportive Birthing Partner
Giving birth to a child remains one of the most physically and mentally demanding experiences a person can have, and getting through it safely, calmly and happily depends very much on the people accompanying the mother during the birth.
The role of a birthing partner is also very testing, and not for the faint of heart, with many being nervous about being equipped to help when the time comes. Here are some top tips for preparing to be the best birthing partner you can be.
Preparation is Key
If witnessing childbirth is an entirely new thing for you, get researching and break the ice. There are hundreds of homemade birthing videos and diaries available to watch on the internet that will get you used to the overall chaotic environment that often comes with a birth.
Familiarise yourself with a wide range of births, as every one is different and many varying measures can be taken to make it a more bearable experience. Read up online or in pregnancy and childbirth books to get a rounded knowledge of everything involved, and if you are able, attend antenatal classes and hospital appointments with the mother so you are as educated on this specific pregnancy as you can be, and can be there to support the mother every step of the way.
Be Up To Date
Every pregnancy is different, and no assumptions should ever be made, so make sure to keep as up to date with the mother and her pregnancy as is possible. Meet regularly with her to discuss any new developments and do what you can to attend her appointments with her.
You’ll be far better equipped to support and help her if you are up to speed on the various characteristics of her pregnancy. For example, if her baby is in a breech position, or is expected to have any conditions, these will have a direct bearing on the birthing experience, and the support you offer. This will also give you the valuable opportunity to discuss with medical professionals any concerns or questions that you have, and get the best possible education on any issues that have come to mind.
Being Ready for Action
Childbirth is notoriously unpredictable, and the average pregnancy can end anywhere between the 37-week and 42-week mark - that’s a six week window in which anything could happen. For this reason, you should prepare early to be as ready as you possibly can be when you get the call: you do not want to be rushing around like a headless chicken when the time comes.
Pack up a small bag for yourself with a change of clothes, toiletries, money and any other bits you might need for an overnight hospital stay. During this crucial time, you should also take steps to position everything you might need: car full of petrol and keys by the door; phone charged and within signal range at all times; plenty of nutritious food that you can just ‘grab and go’ with. As they say, preparation is the key - especially when trying to maintain a calm atmosphere for an expectant mother.
As a birthing partner, the mother and her needs should be your primary concern, so take every opportunity you get to ask questions of her, and understand exactly what she wants for her labour and delivery. Being there while she devises her birthing plan is ideal as you can discuss ideas and suggestions with her, but if not, make sure to at least obtain a copy of her plan and revise it well before the big day so that you don’t need to refer to the paper while it’s all in progress.
Does she want a quiet atmosphere, or does she take comfort from vocal encouragement, or music? What forms of pain relief would she prefer? How does she want her baby to be treated and cared for following the birth? Do what you can to plan for every eventuality, just in case.
Do Your Best
When it comes to childbirth, it is often only the midwives and professionals who feel totally at ease with what’s going on. Delivery is a massively challenging experience for all involved, particularly as the friend or loved one of the mother. Being in the presence of someone in prolonged pain and being powerless to help them can be distressing, and the sheer duration and emotional charge of the environment can be very overwhelming.
But just as with actually giving birth, no one really knows how to support a mother in delivery until they are there doing it themselves. Just remember: the mother already trusts enough in your capabilities and support of her to ask you to be her birthing partner in the first place, and you are only human. So just go into the experience with her interests at heart, willing to do anything she asks of you, and in as calm and patient a manner as possible. Just do your best.
Handling the Unexpected
In the 21st century UK, delivery is a safer experience than ever for the mother and child alike, but this is not to say that it is not a serious and physically traumatic medical process, and there is still a slight chance of complication. No expectant mother wants to ponder on birth complications, but it is worth touching on briefly, and getting an idea of what the mother would want in the event of unexpected problems.
Although not a pleasant conversation to have prior to delivery, it is better to have it and not need it, than be clueless as to how to support a mother amid dire circumstances. Should any birthing complications arise, the mother should make sure to consult with a legal expert who specialises in such matters, who can assist with making a claim for birth injury negligence compensation.
Ninety-five per cent of women whose pregnancies are deemed low-risk will give birth with no complications, and we are fortunate to have one of the world’s strongest health services to deliver high-quality health care.
As a birthing partner, you already have very little chance of having to support a mother through any difficulties, but regardless, giving birth is a significant and challenging experience that she wants you to be there for her through, so it is important that you take every step you can to prepare yourself physically, mentally and emotionally for this milestone. As long as you stay focused on giving the mother the support she requires of you, you will do a fine job.