12112007Jojo003%20low%20res.jpgI was asked to give some birth partner advice for an article in Pregnancy, Baby and You Magazine which started me thinking how to be the best birth partner... hmmm.  I have attended over fifty births and I think the most important piece of advice is: do not fall asleep!   Be focussed and positive about everything (even if things don't go according to the birth plan). Avoid expressing high emotion as any adrenalin release can stop production of oxytocin which is the hormone which keeps the labour going.  Strong emotions are contagious and so a birth partner (or anyone else in contact with them) being very excited/terrified can quickly make the lady in labour feel the same.  

Try to encourage a labouring woman to follow her instincts and conserve energy in the early stages of labour.  Try to speak in quiet tones and slow your breathing down as this is also a good way to calm someone.  If she has said she absolutely positively wants a home birth/water birth/natural birth the time to discuss her sudden change of mind is not during labour.  You will have years to chat about her change of heart after the baby is born.  (or, perhaps, to choose NOT to ever mention it again...)

No strong perfume or drinking of coffee/eating of garlic as a lady in labour is very sensitive to strong smells.  Try to establish before labour starts what is expected of you and try to do everything that has been agreed (lighting, music, aromatherapy, food, drink etc.)  The best birth partners are able to emapthise and preempt a woman's needs and desires before she has even realised that she has had them.  Try to apply counter pressure to the base of the spine with each contraction, with fist, palm of hand or tennis ball.  If this is not appreciated, do not take umbrage, but try something else.

Do not ask what the seive by the pool is for.  Most women poo and moo in labour but don't need to be reminded of this fact or even told they actually do it.  A good midwife or birth partner will draw a tactful veil of silence over all the scatalogical facts of birth and be very vague if directly questioned.12112007Jojo013%20low%20res.jpg

I find gentle soothing repeated phrases like “You can do it… you're doing really well” etc whispered during a contraction with the encouragement to “keep your shoulders and jaw soft” help.  In water, slow pouring of warm water over back/shoulders/belly sometimes helps during a contraction.  If a lady's hair is getting in her face, try to tie it back for her.  If her lips are chapped, offer her some lip spooge.  Sometimes gentle, rhythmical stroking of inner part of lower arm or hair can help.  All these things can be great for a while and then become irritating, so be prepared to be told to stop (sometimes abruptly) and try something new/different/better.  Do not ever complain that you, the birth partner, are tired/sore/hungry/bored and expect sympathy...

A woman must continue to keep her fluids up during labour so a gentle reminder to keep taking little sips of offered sugary fruit drinks with a straw is very helpful as is a reminder and help to go to the loo every hour or so.

Be very sensitive to a woman's dignity and leave the room without being asked whenever the midwife wants to examine etc.  As labour progresses, all dignity will fly out of the window but in the early stages it is important not to make a woman uncomfortable.  If you need a break or need to go to the loo, make sure someone is taking your place as leaving a woman alone can make her anxious. 

Use any items chosen for labour regardless of your personal belief about them.  If a lady has decided to purchase a birth ball or birthing stool, to rent a pool or has chosen to use aromatherapy or homeopathy or hypnosis to help with her labour and birth, do not question, just do to the best of your ability what is required to make it happen.   If a lady believes that having "angel spray" squirted in her labour room will allow her a more peaceful birth, spritz without judgement.

Don't forget the camera!  (but snap sensitively)