Part 3: How to be the BEST Birthing Partner Ever—PARTNER- AND SELF-CARE
Birth is an intense and magical adventure. No matter the outcome, it will change your life forever, always keep you on your toes, and lead you to a constant state of discovery of yourself and the world around you. By now, your partner may have already picked up your nursing pillow, carrier, and a bunch of other products you didn’t know you’d need, and are preparing to give birth! But birth is not just a thing a pregnant person does. Birthing partners are just as important in creating the positive memories we all hope to have surrounding the births of our children. Keep reading to for some tips to become the BEST birthing partner you can be and have your partner gazing upon you with eyes of gratitude and adoration, while they shower you with presents! Ok. Maybe not presents, but they’ll sure appreciate it!
The doula who shared these tips, Ashley Blankenship with Supported Season, had so many great tips we created a partner support blog series! Stay tuned for more doula advice and check out tips for preparation and communication.
Get rest and food when you can
Have a conversation with your partner about your rest during labor and delivery. Make sure they know that you’ll need rest to make sure you can care for them to the best of your ability, and you’ll need to eat, too. Make a plan together for how and when you’ll try to rest and eat. There’s no reason why you both need to be exhausted. Once baby comes, the person giving birth will need to rest and recover, which leaves you to care for both your partner and the baby. Making sure you’re rested and nourished is extremely important. Asking your partner how this will be handled will help your partner cope with feelings of abandonment or jealousy when you can eat or rest and they can’t.
Feed and hydrate your partner
Figure out your birthing facility’s guidelines for food and liquids. It used to be that people giving birth were only allowed ice chips, but that is no longer the case at most facilities. Modern research proves it’s important for your partner to remain hydrated and fed, and may even shorten labor (https://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/wk/aog/2017/00000129/00000003/art00014). Imagine running a marathon and not being allowed to eat or drink! Since there are a lot of emotions and physical exertion ahead of you both, keep the meals light and easily digestible. Drink for thirst. No need to pound gallons of water.
Remember to go to the bathroom
Since you’ll be nice and hydrated, potty breaks are a necessity. A full bladder can make contractions less effective (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/0002937867900750). Remind the person giving birth to take a bathroom break at least every 2 hours. Walking is great for helping baby get into the right position and sitting on the toilet helps people giving birth relax as they’re conditioned to relax on the toilet. Don’t feel bad for making them get up. It will benefit the labor progression and may make them a little more comfortable. If the person giving birth received an epidural, a catheter will be inserted so they will not need nor be able to walk to the bathroom.
Be ready to roll!
Don’t leave planning to go to the birthing facility to the last minute. Have all needed phone numbers saved in your phone, make sure your gas tank is always full, have a bag with snacks and drinks ready to go, and make sure all the bags make it into the car. Don’t forget your nursing pillow and baby carrier. You’ll definitely want those at the birthing facility. Figure out the best route to the birthing facility ahead of time and keep track of when traffic is bad on your preferred route. Make sure you have a good idea of how long it takes to get there because chances are, your partner will be very uncomfortable in the car. Letting them know “5 more minutes until we’re there,” can help ease anxieties more than saying “soon” or “almost.”
Encourage movement, but respect wishes.
Encourage your partner to move during labor. The birth canal isn’t a straight tube that baby slips down. There are nooks, crannies, bones, and tissues that get in the way of a straight shot outta there. Moving around not only helps baby into an optimal position, but also helps baby work around and through all of these obstacles. Remember, it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. The person giving birth should not be doing anything too aerobic, but walking, swaying, sitting on a ball, rocking, etc. all help to get baby out! If your partner isn’t in the mood to move, don’t push it. They’re going through a lot and may just need a break.