Uncertain about how best to support your partner in labor and birth? You're not alone! It's not something you're born knowing and it doesn't always come easily. With the tips below, you can feel more confident in knowing just how to help and be the best, most supportive partner possible!
1. Set yourselves up for success. Good support throughout pregnancy, birth, and early parenthood is arguably the most important piece of having positive experiences. How are you and your partner setting yourselves up with support? Working with your partner, talk about what kinds of support you'll want during this process, including a good care provider and hospital or birth place, childbirth class, birth doula, additional trusted person(s) at your birth, postpartum doula, guidelines for visitors after birth, and so on.
2. Determine your role and comfort zone during birth. Maybe you're the type of person who knows you'll be hands on during labor and birth -- giving back rubs, suggesting position changes, providing snacks, etc. Or, maybe you're not sure just how comfortable you'll feel during labor, and in fact, you may feel better offering support in other ways. There's no one right way to be a partner to someone during labor and birth, but it is important to know your limitations and ensure your partner has the best kind of physical, emotional, and informational support possible. Work together and openly with your partner about how you envision supporting the process of labor and birth, and source additional people if desired.
3. Remember to care for yourself, too. In order to care for someone in labor, you have to be in top shape! Eating and drinking throughout labor will give you the energy you need. Wear comfortable clothes and let the doula or nurse care for your partner when you take an occasional break, which is another critical part of your self care! When possible, as long as there is someone else who can step in for continuous support, it's ok to catch a few minutes of sleep. It can help recharge you in the case of a long labor.
4. Ask questions. Unless you have prior experience, being in a hospital for birth can feel like sailing in uncharted waters. Ask questions anytime you need more information, help, or reassurance. Your nurse, doula, and care provider are good resources for answers and information.
5. Be ready for the unexpected. Of course, it's impossible to prepare for the unexpected. Just know that you may be surprised at the intensity of emotions that often go along with birth -- for both you and your partner.
6. Your baby already knows you. The voices of you and your partner are most familiar to your baby. Talking to your baby after birth can have a calming affect, which helps with the transition to the outside world -- don't be afraid to get close and speak to your new baby! Touching and stroking baby also reduces stress hormones and improves breathing and temperature regulation.
7. Continue to be present. In the immediate moments after birth and throughout the first few days, weeks, and months after birth ("postpartum"), your presence is important. Your partner will rely on your hands-on and emotional support. The postpartum period is a mixed bag of joy and challenges, for both of you. It's ok and even encouraged to call in for extra support from someone who understands that parents need to be cared for, too. A good friend, postpartum doula, or even an encouraging family member can be very helpful during this time.
8. Be patient. Your relationship with your partner after a baby is born will likely go through some very intense and immediate changes. These changes, which are transitional, require patience and understanding from both of you. In the future, with work and intentional connection, your relationship can once again feel connected.
TagsBirth Working with a doula Labor Dads Postpartum Support