At times, it can be difficult for partners to know exactly how they can be most helpful as you go into labour and delivery. It can be a balancing act between actively encouraging and showing you that they are present, and keeping enough distance so as not to irritate you during this intense time. The crucial thing for partners to remember is to listen carefully to your needs, responding to your demands quickly and without complaint. Everyone is different; some pregnant people love to be distracted and talked to while others need silence. Partners should be aware of this and adjust their behaviour to your specific desires and preferences. Here is a list of five things that partners can try in order to best support you during labour:
- Be familiar with your birth plan. It can be difficult to communicate your wishes and how you are feeling during labour. You and your birth partner should discuss the birth in advance and either prepare a documented birth plan or at least be “on the same page” Attending antenatal class together will be of huge benefit to help you prepare together.
- Encourage you to sleep and relax: In early labour, it’s important for you to rest and, if possible, get some sleep. This sleep is unlikely to be the most peaceful, deepest sleep of your life. However, you need to build up as much energy as possible to prepare for the strenuous task in front of you. Your partner can help remind you of this and calm you down as the labour process begins. Helping in any way to allow you to relax, be it giving you a massage or doing any tasks for you to allow you to sleep is an important role for the partner to take on.
- Advocate for you: Understandably, the combination of anxiety and pain during labour can make it difficult for you to articulate your desires effectively. Your support partner is essential during this time to communicate your agreed upon birth preference list to your healthcare provider. Though it may be necessary to deviate from your birth plan due to unforeseen circumstances, your partner should be aware of your general desires and preferences so as to advocate for you during this time.
- Stay calm: I know this one is easier said than done! However, if your partner is getting overly worked up and panicking, how can you be expected to remain calm? It’s so important for you to stay as calm as possible during labour as anxiety can inhibit the release of necessary hormones. Therefore, your partner should try their best to remain as relaxed as possible in this high-stress environment.
- Optimise your comfort: Without overdoing it, your support person should be consistently checking in on you and your comfort levels. Whether it’s ice chips, water, or a pillow you should be able to rely on your partner to bring them to you quickly. During labour, your partner can also help with getting you in comfortable positions on a birthing ball or help you with some breathing techniques.
Though everyone reacts differently during labour and delivery, following the above advice should allow your partner to support you and respond to your personal needs. Doing what you say, reassuring, and most importantly loving you during this time will ensure that their presence enhances and improves your experience.