A good birth partner can make the difference between an empowering experience and a miserable one. So you want to learn how to be the best birth partner you can be.
Here are some tips:
1. Meet the caregivers
Whether the pregnant woman is being seen by an obstetrician, midwife, family doctor, or a combination of these, you need to meet everyone involved in her prenatal care. They need to know who you are and what your role is early on, so they do not see you as an interloper in the process.
2. Familiarize yourself with the birthing area
Tour the hospital or birth center, or visit the home for a home birth. You will need to know hospital procedures and protocol, and where to find nurses and other help.
3. Know the birth plan
Ask for a copy of the mother’s birth plan ahead of time. Not only will you be participating in it; you will also be protecting it. For example, a laboring woman is not always able to give clear directions or make decisions. You, as the birth partner, should be ready to defend her birth choices as laid out in the plan.
4. Be packed and ready
If this is a hospital birth or a birth at a home, you will need to pack bags for yourself and/or the mother. For hospital births, include overnight items like toiletries and night clothes for you and the mother-to-be. If it is going to be a water birth, you might want to have a swimsuit along. For the postpartum period, have nursing bras, a breast pump, snacks, and nursing nightgowns on hand.
5. Be encouraging, not pushy
Sometimes a laboring woman just needs some space. You do not want to be encouraging to the point that you are distracting. If the laboring woman tells you to be quiet, be quiet. If she tells you to leave, then step out for a bit – if solitude is what she needs, you are helping by providing it. And if she wants you to hold her the whole time, be prepared for that, too.
6. Time contractions
This is very helpful for understanding the progress of the birth and for encouraging the mother. You will need to provide this information to caregivers, too. Record them in groups of 4 or 5 with time in between, rather than trying to time each one. In addition to timing how far apart the contractions are, you will need to time how long each contraction lasts.
Above all, be sensitive and aware. You are not there to get attention for yourself or run the show. You are there to support a woman giving birth. Keeping this key principle in mind will go a long way in making you an effective birth partner.
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