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Choosing a birth partner - and how can they help you?

Are you due to give birth soon and already have a million things to worry about and sort out before the baby decides they will arrive?

While there is a lot to think about and prepare for, one of the most important considerations is who will be your birth partner. And what can they do to actually be helpful?

In the Western world, the expectation is that the husband or life partner will be your birth partner. But in the East, it is far more common to find women supporting women. aunties, mothers, sisters and friends support the woman in labour while the father waits outside or at home. After the birth, you will often find the women serving each other, preparing nutritious meals, and helping in the home.

So when it comes to picking your own birthing partner, it is good to think about the personal qualities you would appreciate and find helpful and who might fit that profile. Considering that it might not always be the other parent - it is your choice. By taking the time to think about what support would look like on the day for you, you can then clearly communicate your choice of birth partner to family and friends. It is also recommended to have a back-up should there be an unexpected illness, for example, that prevents them from supporting you.

The bond between the mother and her support network starts before the birth itself, so it's good to have someone that knows you, and wants the best for you in the room. Once you have chosen your birth partner, it's good to discuss what they need to know and ensure you share your preferences ahead of the birth.That way, you have someone in the room who can speak and act on your behalf should you need them to.

Make the time to practise birth positions together a few weeks before your due date so that when the moment comes, you both feel confident and prepared to embark on this special journey together. It's all about support and working together.

We’re all different, and have different preferences, comforts and needs when it comes to giving birth. But to help you get started, here are my top 5 things to discuss with your chosen birth partner (and the back-up) before you give birth. Would you add anything else?

1: Praticalities. Let your birth partner take on responsibility for the logistics and practicalities of getting to and from the hospital. Ensure they know your preference for a home or hospital birth. If it's a hospital, highlight which one and plan route options. How do you pay for parking and where is the maternity unit? Once in the delivery room, they can set up the birth environment. Creating a calm, safe space with soft lighting, calming music and photos of loved ones around the room can all help the mums happy hormones to keep flowing allowing birth to unfold.

2: Birthing preferences. Be sure to communicate your wishes on how you want to deliver your baby. Obviously, this can all change on the day, but it's good to let them have an idea of what you are aiming for. Do you want a water birth or do you hate baths? What birth positions do you find comfortable? What pain relief do you want or not want? Do you like quiet or lots of noise and distraction?

3: Help and support during birth. Talk with your birth partner about what they can say or do during labour to provide support. Do you enjoy a back massage or prefer not to be touched? Walk through how you could change positions and how they can support you to keep you comfortable. Having an open dialogue will help to prevent any misunderstanding on the day.

4: Be the keeper of the space. The birth space should be a private space with only people that are there to support the woman in labour. Ensure your birth partner knows who you would want in the room, and to manage the door. They can also take the lead on talking to the midwives or doctors, allowing the birthing mother to stay inwards in her body.

5:The golden hour. The first hour after the baby is delivered is a really special time. Having a calm, quiet space with little interruption will allow you to get to know your baby. To encourage feeding, however, you choose to feed. What might this time look like for you? Be sure to talk the immediate postnatal time through with your birth partner so they can support you during this time.

Importantly, keep communication lines open as much as possible, up to, during and after the birth. As the birth unfolds it is possible the scenario, baby or your preferences change so it's important you can express this to your partner. Ongoing communication with your birth team can help you have the birth you have planned for, so always keep in mind they are there to support you throughout the whole process.

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1 Comment

Melanie English
Melanie English
Oct 16, 2023

As well as the birthing person's choice - some husbands/life partners are not at all up for supporting the birthing person during labour - that's OK too - and it's definitely worth having the conversation to make sure everyone who's there REALLY wants to be there!

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