5 Helpful Things Support Partners Can Do
Doula’s, including myself talk SO much about the production of “oxytocin” (the love hormone) oxytocin is an important component to one of the most complicated ever changing formulas ever created. Birth can be overwhelming for supportive partners, a lot of them worry that they won’t know how or when to help. I always remind partners that they are the “keepers of the birth space, and the promoters of oxytocin!” Their job is important!
1. Protect the birth space:
There are two really easy ways to do this, first—know who your birthing person wants in the room, and when they want them there, before even getting to the birthing space. I had a client that had high blood pressure her entire pregnancy, and well into her birthing time, every time my client’s mother entered into the room my client’s blood pressure would sky rocket! My client loved her mother, but for whatever reason it was just ‘too much’, her supportive partner handled this situation with ease and grace. He quietly pulled his mother-in-law aside and “protected the birth space” he explained to her that he and his wife had come to an agreement together that she would prefer for her to wait out in the waiting room and that their doula (me!) would quickly go out and inform her if anything changed. That was exactly what we did. I was perfectly capable, and able to have that conversation. However, when the partner had the conversation the dynamic of the space changed. My client and her husband had total autonomy over the space—they were running the show and THEY were the one’s that were calling all of the shots.
Second, know that you are a paying customer at your hospital, if you have a nurse or another care provider that you don't feel like you jive with. ASK FOR A NEW ONE! I know it sounds extreme. It doesn't have to be anything confrontational at all, you just go to the nurses station ask to speak with the “Charge Nurse” or even ask for “the nurse in charge” and explain that your current nurse isn't really a good fit for your family. Protect your birthing person’s space, not because they can’t—but because it reinforces that you are a team, working together. This also allows the birthing person to focus their energy at their task at hand.
2. Read the room:
The general rule of thumb is follow the birthing persons lead! Basically this means staying quiet during contractions or when they seem to be going “inward”. Sometimes people during their birthing time prefer for quiet the whole time, if thats the vibe you're getting go with it! Be present in the space, and present in the moment—you’ll know what to do, some birthing people want their hand help the whole time, some people don’t, and thats ok. I always tell my clients and their supportive partners that there isn’t really any room in the birth space for anyone to get offended. I once had a client and she really didn't want her husband to touch her, or talk to her at all. They have a great relationship, but for what ever reason she just wasn't ‘feeling it’ and so he (as they previously had discussed, and decided) took pictures and recorded the her entire birthing time. Luckily the birth went really fast, so the entire video was shorter than a normal movie, haha. BUT—that’s what they had decided before hand and it really worked for them. Everyone is different, not everyone knows what they will want or need in that space, so the best way to accommodate is being willing to read the room.
3. Support birth preferences:
Most likely, you've walked the entire journey of pregnancy with your birthing person—you’ve known them for sometime and they have made their hopes and desires in their birthing space really clear to you. This puts you in a position of vulnerable in a lot of ways. “What if the plan changes? What if they say they want something different in the moment but they don’t REALLY want that?” these are normal concerns. Be open to change, and start the dialog now. Get on the same page.
Being an advocate means communicating with caregivers about any preferences you both have openly discussed.
4. Offer the birthing person water:
This is easy and simple. Offering sips of water or small snacks regularly to help keep the birthing person hydrated is so important. Hydration in pregnancy and during the birthing time helps keep electrolyte and energy levels up. Reminding your birthing person to go to the toilet regularly to empty their bladder is also really important.
5. Help the birthing person find their “Rhythm and Ritual”
The best way to help your birthing person find their rhythm and ritual is by setting up the space, and noticing what is helping them cope the best. Our brains like to have consistent and rhythmic movement/noise in the birth space.
Here are some quick ideas to help “set the space” and find the Rhythm and Ritual.
-Setting the space with dim the lights – helps release melatonin which helps to boost oxytocin.
-Play music that has been prepared earlier – be intentional about the music you two decide on. Picking music that has positive associations for you both is another great way to promote oxytocin.
-Encourage low, deep sounds –some birthing people enjoy having someone vocalizing sounds with them, some people don’t. This is also something that is good to practice or ‘try out’ before the birthing time approaches.
-Encourage the birthing person to be upright, move, sway, squat.
-Hugs, reassurance that they are doing an amazing job – lots of positive encouragement can be really helpful for some people!
-Gentle massage – if they like to be touched, in the lead up to birth have a practice run to get
comfortable with what feels right to them.
-Breathe and stay calm! Your calm presence will help her feel safe and supported!